The Nancy Kissel Case - Part 55

(The Standard)  Jury expected to retire and decide Nancy Kissel's fate.  By Albert Wong.  September 1, 2005.

The jury is expected to begin deliberations today on whether to find Nancy Kissel guilty of premeditated murder, acquit her on the grounds of self-defense, or find her guilty on the lesser charge of manslaughter.

High Court judge Michael Lunn indicated Wednesday that he will finish his directions to the jury today and allow them to consider the verdict in the sensational trial which opened on June 6.

The trial has captivated Hong Kong with its long and often sordid commentary, detailing Nancy and Robert Kissel's fall from being a happy, privileged couple to accused and victim.

One of the many issues the jury must decide is whether Robert Kissel was drugged and lying helpless on the night he was killed due to being served a milkshake laced with sedatives.

Lunn noted that a government toxicologist had never before seen the combination of hypnotics and sedatives found in the victim's stomach. But he also accepted that the government laboratory could only test for trace amounts of the drugs and that there was no way of knowing what effect the drugs had prior to death.

Blood stain pattern analyst Lun Tze- shan testified that he believed the victim was lying at the foot of the bed due to blood stains in that area of the master bedroom. He said he found no suggestion of "contact blood" on the walls.

But Lunn also directed the jury to "have regard to [defense counsel] Mr [Alexander] King's stinging criticisms" about the way this examination was conducted and the suggestion it was "fundamentally flawed."

The prosecution alleges that in the months leading up to the fatal night of November 2, 2003, Nancy Kissel, 41, who was having an affair with a TV repairman in the United States, searched for dangerous drugs on Web sites, went shopping for such drugs, concealed them in a milkshake which she served to both her husband and a neighbor.

Later that evening she allegedly smashed the victim's skull with five fatal blows with a heavy metal ornament in their Parkview apartment.

Her actions are so incriminating that the accused now has to claim memory loss in relation to those events, the prosecution contends.

The defense counters that Nancy Kissel was the real victim. She suffered five-years of violence and sexual abuse at the hands of an obsessively driven investment banker who became paranoid about possible divorce on the grounds of spousal abuse, which would wreck his career.

On the night he died, Robert Kissel threatened his wife with divorce and the removal of the children from her care, the only thing left in her life, the defense said. Consequently a furious fight ensued during which the victim attempted to force sodomy on the accused and when she resisted, he came at her swinging a baseball bat.

Nancy Kissel testified that she feared for her life and defended herself with the metal ornament. She accepts that she inflicted the fatal blows to her husband's head, but claims she cannot remember how she did it.

The prosecution relies upon circumstantial evidence since there is no video footage nor eye-witnesses to the killing.

David Noh, who had worked with the victim testified that in a phone conversation that evening, November 2, 2003, when Robert Kissel would already have drunk the milkshake, he found him sounding sleepy and tired.

Andrew Tanzer, a neighbor, was chatting with the victim in the Kissel apartment the day they drank milkshakes prepared by the accused. Consequently, around 4pm he either blacked out, fell asleep or was semi- conscious and testified the effects were "something like amnesia," said Lunn.

Tanzer's wife said she tried slapping his cheeks to keep him awake that night, and considered calling an ambulance due to his strange behavior.

The judge will finish his summary of the evidence today before allowing the five-man, two-woman jury to begin pondering Nancy Kissel's fate.

(SCMP)  Judge questions Kissel's 'meltdown' claim.  By Polly Hui.  September 1, 2005.

Defence claims that Nancy Kissel had a "meltdown" after she killed her husband had to be considered in light of the manner in which she carried out what the prosecution called her "cover-up" activities, jurors were told in the Court of First Instance yesterday.

Mr Justice Michael Lunn also said the evidence of Kissel's generous contributions to her children's school and the Jewish community was "unchallenged".

The judge, on the second day of his summing up, drew the jury's attention to stills taken from closed-circuit television footage that showed the defendant dragging a large suitcase, carrying a rug and shopping bags on different occasions two days after she allegedly murdered Robert Peter Kissel, a senior Merrill Lynch banker, in their Parkview apartment on Sunday November 2, 2003.

The judge said Suzara Serquina, of Tequila Kola in Aberdeen, described the defendant as "normal" but "a little bit loud" during her visit to the furniture store at 5.30pm on November 3.

The accused, wearing sunglasses inside the store, gave a lavish compliment on a display item.

"[The witness] and another salesperson exchanged glances," the judge said.

The accused bought a chaise lounge, two cushions, and a small carpet, and ordered a tailor-made bedcover, before returning the next day to buy two more large carpets at a total price of $27,000.

The defendant had also on the morning of November 3 ordered 20 cartons from Links Relocation, a removal firm, the judge said.

The police later found bloody items, including the 3.7kg lead ornament Kissel used to attack her husband, in the boxes.

She was also found to have accessed the homepage of Hong Kong Police and its pages on missing and wanted persons on the same day, he added.

Mr Justice Lunn invited the jurors to look at the evidence "in respect of whether or not she had gone into a meltdown" after the killing.

Kissel, 41, has admitted killing the banker but pleaded not guilty to murder.

Alexander King SC, for the defence, argued in his closing submission that Kissel had "melted down" after the killing, and that this had caused her to carry out a number of bizarre acts, such as sleeping with her husband's body for at least two nights and calling her husband's mobile phone.

He urged the jury to acquit her of murder, arguing that she had acted in lawful self-defence.

Kissel told the court that she could not recall much about the incidents in those few days.

But prosecutor Peter Chapman said the acts were carried out to cover up the alleged murder.

The judge reminded the jury that the accused had also ordered her two Filipino maids to buy six boxes of peppermint oil from the Body Shop and two coils of rope in Stanley.

She also arranged for some Parkview workmen to carry the old carpet roll concealing the deceased's body to her storeroom on November 5. When the head workman commented to her that the carpet smelt like "salt fish", she did not react and closed the door.

The judge said Bryna O'Shea, Kissel's best friend in San Francisco, said in her oral evidence that the defendant was not crying on the phone and that she was "forcing herself to sound upset" when she told her that her husband walked out after beating her. This left the witness questioning what was really happening, said the judge.

The prosecution witness also found it strange that Kissel complained to her about being unable to write out cheques and said "f***ing Rob had it all tied up with Merrill Lynch" at a time when she did not know his whereabouts.

Ms O'Shea also recalled asking her friend if she wanted to cancel breast enhancement surgery scheduled for mid-November in San Francisco. To her surprise, the accused replied: "No, don't cancel it. I will be there."

But the judge said various defence witnesses had given "unchallenged evidence" on her generous contributions to the Hong Kong International School, where she had been the vice-president of the Parent Faculty Office (PFO), school photographer, and organiser of a successful annual fund-raising event.

He repeated the remark of her good friend and former president of the PFO, Trudy Samra, in relation to her efforts in creating the popular school calendar: "Nancy is the calendar."

And Mr Justice Lunn reiterated a government scientist's conclusion that he had never encountered the combination of five drugs found in the victim's stomach and liver contents - alleged to come from a sedative-laced milkshake Kissel used to drug him.

The jury is expected to deliberate whether to return a verdict of murder, manslaughter or acquit her after the judge finishes his directions today.