Yielding to a persistent hunger strike, Judge Russell Canan relented Tuesday on a plan to bring Albrecht Muth to trial March 25 by video conference from United Medical Center.
Muth has been fasting since late last year, when a series of mental competency hearings found him capable of standing trial in the 2011 death of his wife, Viola Drath.
In recent weeks, though, it’s been Muth’s physical condition that has been the subject of scrutiny.
He’s been hospitalized since Jan. 30, and his condition has been deteriorating. Muth now weighs about 104 pounds, his physician, Dr. Russom Ghebrali, testified Tuesday.
Both Assistant U.S. Attorney Glenn Kirschner and Muth’s defense attorney Dana Page agreed Tuesday that Muth should not be brought to court. Previously, Page had contended it would not be too dangerous to bring Muth by ambulance on a stretcher. Muth has signed a do not resuscitate order, which would prevent medical personnel from reviving him should he collapse during the trial.
Muth is too weak to sit or stand, his doctor has testified, and Muth recently became lightheaded and dizzy when he attempted to sit up in his hospital bed.
Muth has eaten several times, and may be eating more in secret, Ghebrali said. Each time, Ghebrali said, Muth tells him, “I was not strong enough to continue the orders,” and vows to continue a fast he says is religiously motivated.
Kirschner said even with the video link, he feared Muth could exploit the trial to make dramatic statements to the public. Muth gave an interview in his hospital room to ABC News earlier Tuesday, Kirschner said. It was unclear if he was referring to the television network, or a local ABC affiliate.
Kirschner said he feared Muth could die on camera, before a jury and a crowded courtroom. He said he also feared that the case law supporting Canan’s decision to allow a video conference was weak and would result in a possible conviction being overturned on appeal.
Canan has said he believes there is support for his position.
“There must be a situation in which the law says, ‘This just cannot be,’” Canan said.
But he didn’t want to press forward over the objection of both parties.
A status hearing in the case is scheduled for April 25 at 9:30 a.m.
Recently filed motions and correspondance are below: