The trial of Albrecht Gero Muth, accused of killing his 91-year-old wife Viola Herms Drath in August 2011, has begun at D.C. Superior Court. Jury selection is underway today, and oral arguments are expected to start in a few days.
Delays to the trial start date were due in part to Muth’s failing heath because of his decision to restrict his eating. Judge Russell Canan ruled that the trial start today and have the defendant participate from his hospital bed via video conferencing — and not be at the courthouse, a first for the D.C. court. The jury will hear Muth speak but not see him in his deteriorated condition.
Claiming he is innocent, Muth faces a charge of second-degree murder in the death of Drath.
A veteran journalist and married previously to an Army colonel, Drath was found dead in a bathroom of her home on Q Street on Aug. 12, 2011, after being strangled and beaten. She and Muth were known around town for their dinner parties at her home with a mix of political, diplomatic, military and media VIPs. Drath was 44 years older than Muth.
Seen around Georgetown in faux military garb, Muth was perceived by neighbors and shopkeepers as, simply, a oddball. In recent years, he said that he was a member of the Iraqi Army — which the Iraqi government denied. He went so far as to have arranged a 2010 ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery for Iraqi Liberation Day. Muth was also known around government and foundation lobbying circles as Count Albi of the EPG (Eminent Persons Group).
Muth’s hunger strikes began in December 2012 after he was ruled competent to stand trial. In March 2013, a doctor deemed Muth too weak to stand trial. His fast continued. Later, a judge postponed the trial until Jan. 6.