Du Pont is declared mentally incompetent to be tried for murder Pennsylvania judge sends millionaire to psychiatric hospital

September 25, 1996|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

MEDIA, Pa. -- John du Pont yesterday was declared mentally incompetent at this time to stand trial for murder in the January shooting of the Olympic wrestling champion Dave Schultz.

Judge Patricia Jenkins of the Court of Common Pleas ruled that du Pont, 57, was "substantially unable" to assist his lawyers in his defense.

She ordered that du Pont, an heir to the E. I. du Pont de Nemours & Co. fortune, be transferred from a jail in suburban Philadelphia to a state psychiatric hospital for evaluation and treatment.

Jenkins said she was "reasonably certain" that treatment would enable du Pont to stand trial for the shooting, which occurred on his sprawling estate in Newtown Square, Pa.

The judge ordered the doctors who will examine du Pont to report within 60 days whether he is competent to stand trial. Jenkins also ordered that he be re-examined every 90 days by a court-appointed psychiatrist.

Prosecutors, who have said they believe that du Pont's bizarre behavior has been carefully choreographed, expressed confidence yesterday that du Pont eventually would be tried for murder in Schultz's death.

Asked if he believed that his client would ever be competent to stand trial, one of du Pont's lawyers, Thomas Bergstrom, said in an interview: "I don't know. The doctors have all said that there is a strong probability, with proper medication, he can be restored to competency in two to six months."

At a three-day competency hearing that began last week, a court-appointed psychiatrist said he believed that du Pont was incompetent to stand trial.

The psychiatrist, Dr. Thomas Gutheil, said he came to his decision after hearing testimony from three other psychiatrists and from du Pont's former lawyers.

Gutheil also viewed a videotape made in March, during which du Pont alternately referred to himself as the Dalai Lama, the last czar of Russia and a successor to the Third Reich.

During the 75-minute videotaped interview, du Pont wondered whether the U.S. government had sent a clone of himself to kill Schultz, who won a gold medal at the 1984 Summer Olympic Games and was training for the 1996 Games in Atlanta at du Pont's estate.

"I recognized Dave Schultz as my protector," du Pont, a longtime benefactor of Olympic-style wrestling, said in the interview with two defense psychiatrists.

"I didn't put two and two together until after Dave had been killed."

Recently, du Pont, who now has a scruffy beard, dismissed two of his lawyers, insisting that they were conspiring with the prosecution and the CIA against him.

Both lawyers, Richard Sprague and William Lamb, testified last week that they were unable to have a meaningful conversation with du Pont despite hundreds of meetings.

While du Pont believed himself competent to stand trial, Berg-strom said in an interview, "I think the ruling was consistent with the facts and the law and the medical testimony."

Prosecutors maintain that du Pont's behavior represents not mental incompetence, but rather elaborate fakery.

An assistant superintendent at the Delaware County Prison, where du Pont has been incarcerated, testified last week that he overheard the defense lawyer, Taras Wochok, telling his client, "You don't know your name," as du Pont prepared to meet recently with psychiatrists.

Pub Date: 9/25/96

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