2010-03-11 / Local & State

Millionaire Killer John Du Pont Nears Final Appeal

By Maryclaire Dale ASSOCIATED PRESS WRITER

PHILADELPHIA (AP) – Millionaire murderer John du Pont’s appeals have nearly run out as the chemical-fortune heir fights his 1997 conviction for killing an Olympic wrestler at his Pennsylvania estate.

Du Pont, 71, has been in prison since a Delaware County jury deemed him mentally ill but still guilty of third-degree murder in the slaying of gold-medal winner David Schultz.

The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the verdict in 2000.

Now, a U.S. appeals court in Philadelphia has rejected all but one issue his legal team raised on appeal. And the court won’t hear arguments on the issue, but instead wants only written briefs on whether his trial lawyer sufficiently explored his use of a Bulgarian prescription drug.

Du Pont is serving a 13- to 30- year prison term for the 1996 slaying, which was followed by a twoday standoff with police at his mansion.

Schultz’s widow Nancy testified that she saw du Pont shoot her husband, a 36-year-old father of two who had been training with other athletes at the worldclass sports complex on du Pont’s estate after winning the gold medal in 1984.

“The shooting of Schultz was inexplicable, as it was committed in the presence of several witnesses, at Schultz’s house located on the du Pont Farm, and without an apparent motive or reason,’’ du Pont’s appellate lawyers wrote in their recent brief.

Prosecutors say cocaine use exacerbated du Pont’s mental illness. His lawyers now say the headache medicine obtained during a trip to Bulgaria a month before he shot Schultz may instead be to blame.

“The prosecution sought to prove that du Pont was ‘both bad and sick’ by presenting evidence of prior bad acts, including evidence that his mental illness was allegedly the result of years of cocaine abuse. Yet, because of the ineffectiveness of his trial counsel, the jury never heard critical evidence that would have made clear that du Pont’s mental illness was exacerbated by his use of a potent prescription drug, scopolamine, in the weeks immediately preceding the shooting,’’ appellate lawyers David Rudovsky and Burt M. Rublin wrote.

In response, Assistant District Attorney William R. Toal said there is no evidence du Pont’s trial lawyer knew about the scopolamine, and cannot therefore be judged ineffective.

The 3rd Circuit did not indicate when it would rule on the issue.

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