A D.C. Superior Court judge on Wednesday ordered further psychological testing to determine whether a man who says his 91-year-old wife's August death was the result of a "hit by the Iranian Army" is competent to stand trial on a first-degree murder charge.
According to court documents, Albrecht Muth, 47, demonstrated to medical experts that he understood court proceedings, but his "unusual beliefs about his criminal case and where he believed the focus of his defense should be" indicated that he was "currently incompetent to proceed" with a trial in the death of his wife, Viola Drath.
"He described an effort following his arrest to 'alert the United States' that this was occurring and that he wanted the United States 'to release the CIA files,' " Patrick Canavan, chief executive officer at St. Elizabeth's Hospital, said in a written mental evaluation. "Many of the thoughts that Mr. Muth expressed could be the result of several factors to include genuine psychosis or feigned psychological processes in order to avoid prosecution."
On Wednesday, Mr. Muth appeared in court wearing a navy and red gym suit, a far cry from the camel-colored military-style uniform neighbors frequently saw him in when walking around the Georgetown neighborhood where he lived with his wife.
Mr. Muth did not speak during the hearing, although he acknowledged with a nod and slight bow the order that he return to court April 25 for another mental-health update.
In mid-August, Mr. Muth called police to the couple's Georgetown row house, where Drath was found in a bathroom. Her injuries indicated strangulation, and investigators eventually traced evidence back to her much-younger husband. He was arrested days later on charges of second-degree murder, but last week he was indicted on a first-degree murder charge, which carries a maximum sentence of life in prison.
In recent months, Mr. Muth began behaving erratically, including claiming he was communicating with angels and going on a lengthy hunger strike at the D.C. Jail that led to his Feb. 15 admission to St. Elizabeth's.
According to the 2½-page evaluation, Mr. Muth confirmed to doctors that he understood basic court proceedings such as plea options, and the positions and roles of court officials during a trial. The evaluating doctors also determined that Mr. Muth was familiar with the events of his wife's death, but that when it came to specifics of a trial involving himself, they noted "skepticism" and "inflexibility," and Mr. Muth expressed displeasure with his current legal counsel.
They noted a "substantial probability" that Mr. Muth will become competent for the trial, which is scheduled for Oct. 9.
During the hearing, Judge Russell F. Canan acknowledged Mr. Muth's continued desire to represent himself, and he encouraged Mr. Muth to work with experts at the hospital.
"I'm sure you have an interest in getting this case back on track," he said.
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