THIS IS ALL YOU CAN KNOW, ALL YOU CAN BE TOLD. WHEN YOU GET TO WHERE I AM, YOU WILL KNOW THE REST: Martha (Sunny) von Bülow, who had been in a coma for twenty-seven years, eleven months and fifteen days, passed away today at the age of 76. (Yeah, shocker: the NYT had that obit ready.) As you may recall, her husband Claus was convicted, had the conviction reversed on appeal and subsequently acquitted of charges of attempted murder with injections of insulin (for what, insulin?) into his hypoglycemic wife. Notes the Times, "A $56 million civil suit filed against Mr. von Bülow by his stepchildren was settled in 1987 with the stipulation that Mr. von Bülow agree to a divorce and not discuss the case publicly."
[Much more on the criminal case here. See, also, Dominick Dunne, "Fatal Charm: The Social Web of Claus von Bülow", Vanity Fair (August 1985) ("A rich person on trial is very different from an ordinary person on trial. The powerful defense team assembled by von Bülow for the second trial so outshone the prosecution that the trial often seemed like a football game between the New York Jets and Providence High.")]
But mostly, of course, my generation knows this story from the endearingly cynical and well-acted 1990 film Reversal of Fortune, starring Jeremy Irons as one of the era's great movie villains (on a par with John Malkovich in In the Line of Fire and Alan Rickman in Die Hard), Glenn Close as Sunny, and Ron Silver as Claus' appellate lawyer Alan Dershowitz, who also wrote a fine book on the case. (In a small role, catch Felicity Huffman as The Angry HLS Student Who Doesn't Like The Case.)
Query for the law-talking folks: he was charged with attempted murder before. Does double jeopardy now prevent a third bite at the apple?