Prosecutors in the murder case against Albrecht Muth have argued that Muth be allowed to stand trial, despite his inability to attend court hearings.
Proceeding with a trial without the defendant present would be highly unusual, but prosecutors have argued that Muth has forfeited his right to be present at trial by continuing a lengthy hunger strike. The hunger strike has significantly impaired Muth’s health.
In a Friday court filing, first reported by the AP, prosecutors said Muth’s fasting is a deliberate “attempt to avoid trial.”
“Muth’s continued refusal to accept regular nourishment could be viewed as a valid waiver of his constitutional right to attend trial,” prosecutors wrote to the court.
Muth, 49, is charged with first-degree murder in the 2011 death of his 91-year-old wife, Viola Herms Drath.
On August 12, 2011, Drath was found beaten and strangled in her Georgetown home. Muth was arrested four days later and has since given false claims of his military service, blaming the death of Drath on Iranian agents.
In December 2012 Muth was examined and found competent to stand trial, but he has since refused to eat or drink regularly and has remained in what doctors have called a “self-induced starvation.”
In March 2013 Judge Russell Canan urged Muth to end his fast, warning Muth that if he continued the fast the court would consider that he had “waived your right to be physically present in the courtroom.”
Muth’s fast never stopped, and due to medical issues has been held at United Medical Center for further observations. He has refused medical help and has participated in case hearings only by phone.
Prosecutors say that doctors have advised that Muth is not physically capable to stand trial and that “the acts of standing or even sitting could lead to Muth’s sudden death.”
The next scheduled status hearing in the case is in October. Trial dates for December and January are currently on the court’s calendar.