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Claus von Bülow (1926–2019), socialite acquitted of trying to kill his wife

Ron Galella/Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images

Sunny von Bülow skipped into a coma, but the jury found that her husband wasn't at fault

Claus von Bülow was a Danish-British socialite who became the subject of a sensational 1980s court case when he was accused, then convicted, then acquitted of attempting to kill his American wife, Sunny von Bülow. She was an heiress whose money fueled the couple's spending, and when she went into a brief coma in December 1979 and then an irreversible one in December 1980, von Bülow was accused of trying to kill her by injecting her with insulin to aggravate her low blood sugar. In a highly public trial in their adopted home state of Rhode Island, von Bülow was first found guilty and sentenced to 30 years in prison, but he insisted on his innocence and was bailed out for $1 million. He filed an appeal and, represented by Alan Dershowitz, was found not guilty of all charges.

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Died: May 25, 2019 (Who else died on May 25?)

Details of death: Died at his home in London at the age of 92.


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Fallout from the trial: Von Bülow became well known during and after the trial for his tailored style and his quips for reporters – as when he told a journalist who asked for his height, “Six foot three—plus my halo.” The public was fascinated with the trial, and there was strong disagreement on whether von Bülow was actually guilty. Von Bülow's family wasn't exempt from the fighting, with his daughter with Sunny, Cosima, pitted against his stepchildren, who sued von Bülow in a civil action. Eventually, von Bülow agreed to divorce his wife — who remained in a coma until her death in 2008 — and relinquish his rights to fortune. He moved to London, where he lived the rest of his life. Dershowitz recounted the experience of representing von Bülow in his 1986 best-seller, "Reversal of Fortune," which was made into a 1990 film starring Jeremy Irons and Glenn Close as the von Bülows.

Notable quote: “I'm convinced of one thing: Sunny would have been my strongest defender” —von Bülow in an interview with Barbara Walters

What people said about him: “This case has everything. It has money, sex, drugs; it has Newport, New York and Europe; it has nobility; it has maids, butlers, a gardener.” —Dershowitz, quoting a prosecutor in “Reversal of Fortune”

“Claus is a great catalyst. People instantly loathe him or like him.” —Spanish Marquis Reinaldo Herrera

Full obituary: New York Times

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