The Nancy Kissel Case - Part 59

(Agence France Presse)  'Milkshake murderer' makes final appeal    January 12, 2010.

An American woman dubbed the "milkshake murderer" for the killing of her high-flying banker husband in one of Hong Kong's most sensational crime cases launched her final appeal on Tuesday. Nancy Kissel, 45, appeared at the Court of Final Appeal to appeal her conviction for murdering her husband in 2003 by lacing a strawberry milkshake with a cocktail of sedatives and bludgeoning him to death with a lead ornament.

She was sentenced to life in prison in 2005 after a three-month trial which unveiled a heady mix of adultery, violence, spying, greed and wealth. Gruesome details emerged in the trial, including evidence that Kissel had rolled up her husband Robert・s body in a large carpet and left it in the bedroom of their luxurious apartment for days before hiring four workmen to carry it to a store room. Prosecutors claimed Kissel stood to gain up to HK$140 million in insurance payouts from the death of her husband, a senior investment banker at Merrill Lynch.

Kissel admitted from the witness box that she killed her husband, but claimed she was acting in self-defence after he attacked her with a baseball bat on the night of the murder. Her defence team is challenging her conviction before the Court of Final Appeal on the grounds that the prosecution had breached evidence rules during the trial. Her last appeal was dismissed by the Court of Appeal in 2008.


(SCMP)  Kissel's final fight for freedom   Yvonne Tsui    January 13, 2010

Nancy Kissel, serving a life sentence for bludgeoning her high-flying banker husband to death after lacing his milkshake with sedative drugs, is fighting her conviction in the city's highest court, claiming she had an unfair trial.

On the first of a three day hearing in the Court of Final Appeal, Kissel's lawyer launched a scathing attack on the prosecution. He said lawyers broke rules by dragging inadmissible material into the trial to attack the argument that Kissel was of unsound mind at the time of the offence.

The court was also told that Kissel's claim was supported by the prosecution's psychiatric report, which found Kissel probably suffered from a depressive disorder and had an abnormality of mind that resulted in diminished responsibility.

The prosecution did not call the psychiatrist to testify at the trial.

The American-born Kissel was found guilty of murdering her husband Robert Kissel, a Merrill Lynch banker, by a jury at the end of a sensational trial in the Court of First Instance in 2005. She was sentenced to life in jail by Mr Justice Michael Lunn.

At the trial, Kissel had argued she killed her husband in self-defence. She claimed he was a habitual user of cocaine and had been an abusive and brutal man who frequently assaulted her with a baseball bat and had forced her to commit all manner of depraved sexual acts.

Kissel claimed she had an episode of memory loss at the time of the killing in their luxurious home in Parkview, Tai Tam, in 2003. She briefly remembered a scuffle with her husband but could recall no other details surrounding the killing.

Kissel, a mother of three, looked fragile in court. She is reportedly unable to walk because of a knee injury which has kept her in a wheelchair. Special arrangements were made to clear the area outside the courtroom as she passed through the corridors of the building.

Her family and friends also attended to show their support. Her mother Jean McGlothlin confirmed Kissel was receiving treatment for her leg and emphasised her daughter still had a strong will to fight the appeal.

Making a final bid to overturn the conviction, Gerard McCoy SC said Kissel had suffered "extensive, determined exploitation" when she was cross-examined about her mental state.

McCoy argued that prosecutor Peter Chapman had broken rules of evidence that restrict the use of materials filed or adduced in pre-verdict bail proceedings in the trial. He said the prosecutor had used the transcript of a previously successful bail application in November 2004 "to ambush" the defendant in the cross-examination.

He said John Griffiths SC, acting for Kissel at the 2004 bail hearing, had convinced the judge it was safe to grant her bail, based on medical records prepared by Dr Henry Yuen Cheung-hang, a psychiatrist who treated Kissel at Siu Lam Psychiatric Centre.

He accused the prosecutor of wrongfully trying to use Griffiths' submission - which summarised the opinions of Yuen - that Kissel's mental state was "perfectly normal", in an attempt to discredit Kissel at the trial.

He said Kissel had also been confronted on why she did not call Yuen to testify as an expert witness. He said the prosecution had known it was Yuen's decision not to give expert evidence to avoid a conflict in his role as a treating doctor.

McCoy said the prosecution was desperate to undermine the defendant with Yuen's findings, which were used in the bail hearing, because they did not have their expert evidence. Yuen had provided a medical report for the 2004 bail hearing which said Kissel's psychiatric status posed no threat to herself or society.

The appeal is being heard before Chief Justice Andrew Li Kwok-nang, Mr Justice Kemal Bokhary, Mr Justice Patrick Chan Siu-oi, Mr Justice Roberto Ribeiro and Sir Anthony Mason. The hearing continues today.


(SCMP)  Judge 'made errors' in Kissel trial   Albert Wong   January 14, 2010

The judge in the trial of Nancy Kissel gave directions to the jury that were "wholly erroneous" and "point-blank wrong", effectively preventing jurors from considering her key defence - of acting in self-defence - the Court of Final Appeal was told yesterday.

On the second day of Kissel's last chance to overturn her murder conviction in the city's top court, Chief Justice Andrew Li Kwok-nang indicated that, at the end of the arguments, he would like to hear submissions regarding the option of a retrial.

Kissel's counsel, Gerard McCoy SC, submitted that the trial judge gave wrong, and contradictory, directions to the jury that effectively "sliced through the entire defence of self- defence".

McCoy spent much of yesterday elaborating on arguments made regarding how she was cross-examined during her trial, and on statements made by third parties during bail proceedings. He also argued that the judge had given misleading directions on the law of self-defence.

Kissel, an American mother of three, was convicted of murdering her husband, Merrill Lynch banker Robert Kissel, in September 2005 after a three-month trial. The trial revealed a story of sex, love, friendship, betrayal and ultimately a fatal confrontation in their Parkview home.

Kissel admitted her affair with a television repairman in the US state of Vermont, where she took her children during the 2003 severe acute respiratory syndrome outbreak. On her return to Hong Kong, she drugged her husband with a milkshake laced with sedatives before bludgeoning him to death with a metal ornament.

But in her version of events, she described a story of a mutually supportive relationship, while they were struggling in New York, that turned sour under the pressures of expatriate life in Hong Kong, with its emphasis on money and status.

When the two came to a confrontation about divorce and custody of the children in November 2003, Robert had in his hand a baseball bat, while Kissel carried a metal ornament. According to Kissel, the last thing she remembered was Robert coming at her with the baseball bat screaming, "I'm going to kill you, you f****ng b***h".

Those events spawned countless articles, crime documentaries and a book, but yesterday they were the subject of complex legal arguments surrounding the nature of self-defence and the proper conduct of a fair trial. McCoy said that Mr Justice Michael Lunn, who sentenced Kissel, had been wrong to suggest that a person cannot be held to have killed lawfully if acting as an aggressor, or with revenge or retaliation in mind.

Such a direction "creates a narrowing of the portal through which the defendant has to pass before the defence is available", McCoy said.

The direction even took on a contradictory element since it was the judge who opened up the possibility of provocation as a defence - a defence that relies on the emotions of anger, revenge and retaliation, he submitted.

McCoy is expected to continue with his arguments today before Li, Mr Justice Kemal Bokhary, Mr Justice Patrick Chan Siu-oi, Mr Justice Roberto Ribeiro and Sir Anthony Mason.


(Agence France Presse)  Final appeal shake for Kissel    January 13, 2010.

"Milkshake murderer" Nancy Kissel, who is serving a life sentence for bludgeoning her high- flying banker husband to death as he lay drugged, launched her final appeal yesterday.

American mother-of three Kissel, 45, appeared in the city's highest court to appeal her conviction for murdering Robert Kissel in 2003 by lacing a strawberry milkshake with a cocktail of sedatives and battering him to death with a lead ornament.

Her lawyer, Gerard McCoy SC, is challenging the conviction before the Court of Final Appeal on the grounds that prosecutors breached evidence rules during the trial. Her last appeal was dismissed by the Court of Appeal in 2008.

She was sentenced to life in prison in 2005 after a three-month trial which unveiled a heady mix of adultery, violence, spying, greed and enormous wealth, which inspired a book and a TV movie.

Gruesome details emerged in the trial, including evidence that Kissel rolled up her husband's body in a carpet and left it in the bedroom of their luxurious apartment for days before hiring workmen to carry it to a storeroom.

Prosecutors claimed Kissel stood to gain up to US$18 million (HK$140.4 million) in insurance payouts from the death of her husband, a senior investment banker at Merrill Lynch.

Kissel admitted from the witness box that she killed her husband, but claimed she was acting in self-defense after he attacked her with a baseball bat on the night of the murder.

"It has been 6 years. Nancy has got great spirit, although her physical condition is not great," Kissel's mother Jean McGothlin said. Kissel's father Ira Keeshin and half-brother Brooks Keeshin were also at the appeal.

The 45-year-old appeared frail and had to clutch the bars to help herself up. But she smiled at her family and lawyers from time to time and was constantly jotting down notes about the proceedings. She was later wheeled out of the court in a wheelchair to the prison van.

At the trial, Kissel's defense team painted her as a loving but long-suffering wife who had been subjected to regular violent attacks by a husband who abused cocaine and alcohol. But the prosecution argued that Kissel wanted to take her husband's money and run away with a television repairman whom she admitted having an affair with in the United States.

Robert Kissel's family suffered a further tragedy in 2006, when his brother Andrew was found murdered in his house in Connecticut, bound and with multiple stab wounds. He was reportedly about to plead guilty to bank fraud. The double tragedy inspired the book Never Enough by American author Joe McGinniss, who is most famous for his best-selling debut about the 1968 election campaign of Richard Nixon, The Selling of the President. It also led to the production of US television movie Killing Mr Kissel.

The appeal continues today.


(BloombergKissel Amnesia Rightly Probed in Banker Murder Case, Court Told    By Debra Mao.  January 19, 2010.

Nancy Kissel・s claim of memory loss after killing her Merrill Lynch & Co. banker husband was an excuse to avoid explaining why she wrapped his body in a carpet and hid it in a storeroom, prosecutor Kevin Zervos said.

It was :perfectly legitimate; for prosecutors in Kissel・s 2005 murder trial to cross-examine her on the inconsistency between her statements that she suffered from amnesia and her lawyer・s earlier comments in a bail hearing that her mental health was normal, Hong Kong・s Deputy Director for Public Prosecutions told the Court of Final Appeal yesterday.

Kissel・s lawyer Gerard McCoy told the court last week the prosecution breached evidence rules in their use of bail hearing material. Zervos argued yesterday that a sanction on such material would :give the accused person a right to lie. That・s the sort of conduct that would undermine our criminal justice system and bring it into disrepute,; he said.

Michigan-born Kissel, 45, was convicted of murdering her husband Robert by giving him a sedative-laced milkshake and clubbing his head with an eight-pound statuette in 2003. Kissel claimed the killing was in self-defense after a history of abusive sex. A successful appeal would be followed by arguments on a possible retrial.

:I・m sure the prosecution had a case against her but the question is whether everything that was put to her was fair,; said Justice Kemal Bokhary yesterday.

.Cover Up・ Zervos said yesterday Kissel engaged in :extensive activities; after the killing to cover it up, :not only rolling him up but putting the body in a sleeping bag,; boxing up the stained bed sheets, and instructing her maid to buy peppermint oil to cover the stench of the decomposing body.

He called Kissel・s account of the night of Nov. 2, 2003; from her husband・s attempts to sodomize her, to his attacking her with a baseball bat to her reaching for the statue and hitting him with it, :practically impossible.; :It would defy the rules of physics for her to reach out and grab an ornament to strike Robert Kissel while he is supposedly holding her by the ankles,; Zervos said.

Kissel, who is serving a life sentence and has arrived and left the court in a wheelchair, teared up while her testimony was repeated by Zervos.

:I wouldn・t want to go through another trial,; said Nancy・s father Ira Keeshin, who flew in from Chicago for the proceedings.

Special Situations

Robert Kissel moved to Hong Kong in 1998 with his wife from New York and worked as co-head of Asian special situations at Goldman Sachs Group Inc. before joining Merrill Lynch to head distressed assets department in 2000.

In the summer of 2003, Nancy Kissel began an affair with an electrical technician while at the family vacation home in Vermont. Robert Kissel discovered the affair and intended to discuss divorce proceedings with his wife on the eve of his death, according to evidence presented at the 2005 trial.

McCoy argued last week that hearsay evidence of Robert Kissel・s belief that his wife was spiking his drinks shouldn・t have been admitted. Such testimony prejudiced the jury as to her intent to kill, McCoy argued.

The case is HKSAR v. Nancy Ann Kissel, case no. FACC2/2009, Hong Kong Court of Final Appeal.


(Wall Street Journal)  Last Appeal for Expat   By Jonathan Cheng.  January 21, 2010.

A lawyer for Nancy Kissel, an American expatriate sentenced to life in prison for murdering her investment banker husband, made a final appeal for her freedom Thursday in a Hong Kong courtroom.

A decision is expected in a few weeks. In the event that her conviction is overturned, the prosecution said it would seek a retrial.

Ms. Kissel, a Michigan native, gained international notoriety after admitting to killing her husband, a senior banker with Merrill Lynch, in 2003. She has been in jail since her conviction in September 2005 after a widely publicized three-month trial that dominated conversation in Hong Kong's expatriate circles.

Prosecutors say Ms. Kissel served her husband, Robert Kissel, a drug-laced strawberry milkshake on the night of Nov. 2, 2003, before bludgeoning him to death with a statuette and rolling him up in a carpet. Ms. Kissel, now 45 years old, says she can't remember what happenedXonly that she may have killed her husband to protect herself after he came at her with a baseball bat during a domestic dispute.

Days after the murder, Hong Kong police found Mr. Kissel wrapped in the carpet and kept in a storeroom at the Kissels' luxury apartment complex.

During the original trial, Ms. Kissel's lawyers pushed for an acquittal, arguing that she acted in self-defense. Ms. Kissel described her husband as a violent cocaine user who forced her to perform abusive sexual acts that took a heavy toll on her psychological health.

The prosecution said Mr. Kissel was furious that his wife had an affair with a repairman who lived near the couple's vacation home in Vermont.

An earlier appeal by Ms. Kissel was rejected in October 2008. The current appeal is her last legal recourse.

Ms. Kissel's lawyer, Gerard McCoy, spent much of his time during the seven-day hearing in Hong Kong's Court of Final Appeal arguing that prosecutors improperly used "impugned evidence" and that the judge in the original trial misdirected the jury on several key points.

Mr. McCoy argued that prosecutors relied on hearsay evidence to suggest that Mr. Kissel suspected his wife had been trying to kill him for some timeXevidence that Mr. McCoy argues shouldn't have been allowed during the proceedings.

Public prosecutor Kevin Zervos, arguing the appeal in court Thursday, called Ms. Kissel's depiction of her husband "character assassination," and said Ms. Kissel "sought refuge in a claim of memory loss" about the events on the fateful night.

Ms. Kissel, her hair tied back, was brought to the court in a wheelchair because of an apparent problem with her leg. She appeared to follow the proceedings closely, and at one point greeted her family membersXsome who had flown in from the U.S.Xwith winks and smiles. Some of her friends also attended, as well as the Catholic priest who played a role in her jailhouse conversion.

Speaking outside the courthouse Thursday, Ms. Kissel's mother, Jean McGlothlin, said she had hoped for a final resolution that day but remained optimistic.

"I don't think the verdict will be upheld, I'm very confident about that," Mrs. McGlothlin said. "What they do next, though, I can't say."

Hong Kong chief justice Andrew Li is leading a bench of five judges who will make a final ruling. Among the judges' options are an overturning of the original verdict and the ordering of a retrial.

The trial has already spawned at least two books and a 2008 Lifetime TV movie starring John Stamos as Mr. Kissel's brother, Andrew KisselXwho, in a separate incident, was murdered a year later in Greenwich, Conn., while under house arrest in relation to a number of fraud cases.

The Hong Kong murder became a sensation there because of the peek it offered into the lives of the city's expatriate elite.

Though the family lived in Parkview, one of Hong Kong's most exclusive communities, the Kissels were "a dysfunctional family, and had been for a long time," Mr. McCoy said in his closing arguments Thursday.

Nancy and Robert married in 1989, and moved to Hong Kong in 1998 so Robert could take up a job with Goldman Sachs Group Inc. He jumped over to Merrill Lynch, where he rose to become managing director and head of the investment bank's Global Principal Investments unit in Asia-Pacific.

The couple moved in high circles, appearing at a banquet for former U.S. President George H.W. Bush just before Mr. Kissel's death.


(South China Morning Post)  Top appeal court to give Kissel ruling today   By Joyce Man.  February 11, 2010.

The city's top appeal court will decide today on whether to quash Nancy Kissel's conviction for murdering her banker husband in 2005. Kissel made a final bid to overturn her conviction at the Court of Final Appeal last month. She is serving a life sentence for bludgeoning Merril Lynch banker Robert Kissel to death at their luxury flat in Parkview, Tai Tam, in November 2003. The court - Chief Justice Andrew Li Kwok-nang, Mr Justice Kemal Bokhary, Mr Justice Patrick Chan Siu-oi, Mr Justice Roberto Ribeiro and Sir Anthony Mason - will give their ruling today.

The American was found guilty by a jury after a sensational trial in the Court of First Instance in 2005. Mr Justice Michael Lunn sentenced her to life in prison. The trial had heard that Kissel had an affair with a television repairman in the US state of Vermont, where she took her children during the 2003 severe acute respiratory syndrome outbreak. When she returned to the city, she drugged her husband with a sedative-laced milkshake before bludgeoning him to death with a metal ornament.

The mother of three appeared frail at her appeal hearings last month and attended in a wheelchair due to a knee injury.

Her barrister, Gerard McCoy SC, argued that prosecutors had broken rules during her trial by using inadmissible material to attack the argument that his client was of unsound mind at the time of the offence. McCoy also said his client had suffered "extensive, determined exploitation" when prosecutors cross-examined her about her mental state, and argued that the trial judge had given directions to the jury that were erroneous and "point-blank wrong". Furthermore, evidence from a confidante of Robert Kissel's about the banker's suspicions that his wife intended to kill him should not have been admitted, McCoy argued.

Kissel maintains that she cannot remember the events surrounding the killing of her husband. However, during the appeal, the prosecution called the alleged memory loss a convenient excuse and said it was a tactic aimed at covering up how she murdered her husband.


(Agence France Presse)  Court orders retrial of Kissel case    February 11, 2010.

Hong Kong's top court on Thursday quashed the conviction of American woman Nancy Kissel for drugging and bludgeoning her banker husband to death, one of the city's most sensational murder cases. Kissel was dubbed the :milkshake murderer; and sentenced to life in prison in 2005 after being convicted of giving her high-flying husband, Robert, a sedatives-laced strawberry milkshake and then bludgeoning him to death in 2003. :The court unanimously allows the appeal, quashes the conviction and orders a retrial,; Chief Justice Andrew Li said.

The 45-year-old・s three-month trial featured a heady mix of adultery, violence, spying, greed and enormous wealth, gripping the former British colony and even inspiring books and films. Grisly details emerged in the trial, including that Kissel rolled up her husband・s body in a carpet and left it in the bedroom of their luxurious apartment for days before hiring workmen to carry it to a storeroom.

:Mrs Kissel killed Mr Kissel. That much is not in dispute. But was the killing certainly murder or might it have been in self defence?; the court said in its judgment. The court said it was clear that Kissel concealed her husband・s body after the killing. But is it certain that she did that to hide a murder? Or might it be that she panicked and tried to hide the fact of the killing even though it had been in self-defence? The question is not whether a reasonable hypothetical jury that had sat through a fair trial free from any material irregularity and had been properly directed could, or even probably would, convict,; the court said.  :It is whether such a jury would inevitably feel sure that Mrs Kissel was lying from start to finish and that she had planned and carried out a coldly calculated murder.;

The judge ordered Kissel remanded in custody pending a bail hearing.

Simon Clarke, Kissel・s lawyer, told reporters that they were considering asking for a permanent stay of proceedings on the grounds that it would be impossible for Kissel to have a fair trial following media coverage of the case. :Basically, we are saying :Can the .milkshake murderer・ get a fair trial in Hong Kong?; Probably not,; Clarke said.

Kissel could walk free if the court granted the request.

The lawyer added that his client was :psychologically injured by the whole process; and had not decided whether to apply for bail before the re-trial.

Kissel, who wept both before and after the ruling, was :elated・ her friends said. :She・s very, very happy,; her friend Nancy Nassberg told reporters outside court.  :Justice has been served. It・s what it should have been a long time ago,; said Geertruida Samra, who testified for Kissel at the trial.

Prosecutors had claimed Michigan-born Kissel stood to gain up to US$18 million in insurance payouts from the death of her husband, a senior investment banker at Merrill Lynch. The prosecution also argued that Kissel, a mother-of-three, wanted to take her husband・s money and run away with a TV repairman with whom she admitted having an affair in the United States.

Kissel admitted from the witness box that she killed her husband but claimed she was acting in self-defence after he attacked her with a baseball bat on the night of the murder. She painted herself as a loving but long-suffering wife who had been subjected to regular violent attacks by a husband who abused cocaine and alcohol.

Kissel・s last appeal was dismissed by the Court of Appeal in 2008. In a hearing before the city・s highest court in January, Kissel・s defence team argued that prosecutors had produced inadmissible evidence during the trial.

Robert Kissel・s family suffered a further tragedy in 2006, when his brother Andrew was found murdered in his house in Connecticut, bound and with multiple stab wounds. He was reportedly about to plead guilty to bank fraud charges.


(Bloomberg)  Kissel・s Murder Conviction Overturned in Hong Kong    By Debra Mao and Kelvin Wong     February 10, 2010.

Nancy Kissel・s conviction for murdering her Merrill Lynch & Co. banker husband was overturned and a new trial was ordered by Hong Kong・s top court.

:It is plainly in the interests of justice,; the Court of Final Appeal said in a 111-page judgment, ruling that there were material errors in her original trial. She remains in custody pending a new trial or a successful bail application.

The 45-year-old had been convicted of murdering her husband, Robert, after hearing evidence that she drugged him with a sedative-laced milkshake and bludgeoned him to death with an eight-pound statuette in their bedroom. Kissel claimed self- defense in her 2005 jury trial, citing a history of abusive sex. A lower court had dismissed a 2008 appeal.

Kissel, who had been serving a life sentence in Tai Lam Women・s Prison, alternately smiled and sobbed in the dock after the decision was announced. She clasped the hands of one of her lawyers, Alexander King, and of supporters including residents at her former Hong Kong apartment complex.

:I・m elated,; her father Ira Keeshin said by telephone from Chicago. Keeshin, who attended the six-day hearing last month, had flown to Hong Kong when she called him the day after the killing in November 2003.

Prejudicial Hearsay

In making Kissel・s final appeal, one of her lawyers, Gerard McCoy, said bail cross examination and prejudicial hearsay evidence were wrongly admitted into evidence, causing a miscarriage of justice for the American expatriate.

Justice Kemal Bokhary, a member of the five-judge panel, wrote that a retrial was proper rather than a discharge despite how long ago the fatal incident took place, the time she had already spent in custody :and the fact that she now appears to be in very poor health.;

A fresh indictment :is in hands other than those of this court,; he said. Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions Kevin Zervos wasn・t present in court this morning and didn・t immediately respond to requests for comment. Simon Clarke, another of Nancy Kissel・s lawyers, said they hope she may face trial on a lesser charge than murder :but it・s really up to the other side.;

Robert Kissel moved to Hong Kong from New York in 1998 with his wife and worked as co-head of Asian special situations for Goldman Sachs Group Inc. He joined Merrill Lynch in 2000 to head its distressed assets business in Asia.

Divorce Proceedings

In the summer of 2003, Robert discovered an affair between his wife and an electrical technician who worked at the Kissel vacation home in Vermont. Kissel planned to discuss divorce proceedings with his wife on the eve of his death, according to evidence presented at her original trial. Court documents show Robert Kissel left an estate of about $18 million and his wife was the main beneficiary of his will.

:On any view, the case is a tragic one,; Justice Bokhary wrote. The nature of the trial meant the prosecution and defense stressed Nancy Kissel・s infidelity and allegation about her husband・s behavior, he wrote. The appeal cannot :be decided by making a saint of one spouse and demonizing the other,; he wrote.

The case is HKSAR v. Nancy Ann Kissel, case no. FACC2/2009, Hong Kong Court of Final Appeal.


(Wall Street Journal)  Hong Kong Court Orders Retrial of Nancy Kissel Murder Case   By Jonathan Cheng.   February 11, 2010.

Nancy Kissel, an American expatriate sentenced to life in prison for murdering her investment-banker husband, has successfully won a last bid in Hong Kong's courts to overturn her conviction and is now heading for retrial.

Hong Kong's highest court quashed the conviction Thursday on grounds of a tainted trial.

Ms. Kissel was in tears after hearing the decision delivered by Chief Justice Andrew Li. She will be kept in police custody pending the retrial, and can seek bail through the lower courts, Justice Li said.

A native of Michigan, Ms. Kissel, now 45 years old, admitted to killing her husband, Robert Kissel, a senior banker with Merrill Lynch, in 2003. Prosecutors say she served him a drug-laced strawberry milkshake before bludgeoning him to death with a statuette and rolling him up in a carpet.

Ms. Kissel said she couldn't remember what happened, but may have killed her husband to protect herself after he came at her with a baseball bat during a domestic dispute. At her original trial in 2005, her lawyers sought an acquittal on grounds of self-defense. Ms. Kissel at the time described her husband as a violent cocaine user who forced her to perform abusive sexual acts.

Mr. Li, in a 111-page ruling, said the prosecution used evidence obtained from a bail hearing that shouldn't have been admissible, among other errors. "Mrs. Kissel killed Mr. Kissel," Mr. Li wrote. "That much is not in dispute. But was the killing certainly murder or might it have been in self-defense?"

"Justice has been served," said Nancy Nassberg, a friend of Ms. Kissel for more than 10 years, outside the court afterwards. Ms. Nassberg said she was "very, very happy." Ms. Nassberg and other friends waved and smiled at Ms. Kissel's police van as photographers thronged the van. Ms. Kissel's lawyer Alexander King exited the courtroom with a smile, saying "I have no comment."

An earlier appeal by Ms. Kissel was rejected in October 2008.

During the six-day hearing in Hong Kong's Court of Final Appeal, another lawyer for Ms. Kissel, Gerard McCoy, argued that prosecutors improperly used "impugned evidence" and that the judge in the original trial misdirected the jury on several key points. Mr. McCoy argued that prosecutors relied on hearsay evidence to suggest that Mr. Kissel suspected his wife had been trying to kill him for some timeXevidence that Mr. McCoy argues shouldn't have been allowed during the proceedings.


(The Standard)  Quashed    By Colleen Lee and Agencies.  February 12, 2010.

In a stunning reversal, Nancy Kissel has had her conviction for the "milkshake murder" of her high-flying banker husband quashed.

The American mother-of-three will now face a retrial, Hong Kong's top court ruled.

"The court unanimously allows the appeal, quashes the conviction and orders a retrial," Chief Justice Andrew Li Kwok-nang said at the Court of Final Appeal yesterday.

Kissel, who lost an earlier appeal of her conviction in 2008, smiled broadly when Li announced the ruling. Friends said the 45-year-old is "elated."

The defendant, who remains in custody, was jailed for life in September 2005 after being convicted of bludgeoning husband Robert Kissel to death two years preciously with a heavy metal ornament as he lay unconscious after drinking a sedatives-laced milkshake.

The top court ruled that prosecutors improperly questioned Kissel during the trial and the judge wrongly allowed hearsay evidence. But the five-judge panel ordered that she be kept in custody pending a bail application to the Court of First Instance ahead of her second trial.

"Mrs Kissel killed Mr Kissel. That much is not in dispute. But was the killing certainly murder or might it have been in self-defense?" the court said in its judgment.

The gripping three-month murder trial featured a sensational mix of adultery, violence, spying, greed and enormous wealth.

Grisly details emerged in court, including evidence that Kissel rolled up the body of her 40-year-old husband in a carpet at their luxury Parkview, Tai Tam, apartment and then hired workmen to carry it to a storeroom.

The top court said it was clear Kissel concealed the body after the killing.

"But is it certain that she did that to hide a murder? Or might it be that she panicked and tried to hide the fact of the killing even though it had been in self-defense?"

A another question was "whether a [reasonable] jury would inevitably feel sure that Mrs Kissel was lying from start to finish and that she had planned and carried out a coldly calculated murder."

Prosecutors had argued that Kissel planned the November 2, 2003, murder.

They claimed she stood to gain up to US$18 million (HK$140.4 million) in insurance payouts. The prosecution also argued that Kissel wanted to take her husband's money and run away with an electrician with whom she admitted having an affair in the United States.

Robert Kissel, who worked for Merrill Lynch, had annual income of US$175,000 at the time of his death. He had amassed bonuses of US$5.9 million in his three years with the bank. The HK$152,000 monthly rent of the apartment was also paid by the bank.

Kissel, who painted herself as a loving but longsuffering wife during the trial, said her husband confronted her about a divorce, threatened to take away their children, attacked her with a baseball bat and tried to have anal sex with her. She said she killed him in self- defense.

The Court of Final Appeal sided with Kissel on two grounds - the manner in which prosecutors cross- examined her at trial and the relevance of testimony that her husband confided to others that he feared for his life. Kissel's lawyers argued that prosecutors broke the law by asking her about material presented during her first bail hearing - information they said should have been off limits at trial because of a law meant to allow defendants to seek bail without fear of incriminating themselves.

The justices also said the trial judge erred in allowing one of Robert Kissel's friends and a private detective he hired to testify that he expressed worries that his wife may be plotting his murder. "It is plainly in the interests of justice that there should be a retrial," the judges said.

Kissel, dressed in black and weeping before and after the ruling, was "elated."

Geertruida Samra, who testified for Nancy Kissel at the trial, said: "Justice has been served. It's what should have been a long time ago."


(South China Morning Post)  Kissel could be freed before retrial is held  

Get ready for another Kissel trial - unless the woman they called the "milk shake murderer" can convince a judge she won't get a fair hearing.

American Nancy Kissel, convicted five years ago of the murder of her millionaire banker husband Robert and sentenced to life imprisonment, was yesterday cleared on technical grounds by the top court, which ordered a retrial. She could taste freedom within weeks if an application for bail is granted, though she remains in the Tai Lam women's prison for the moment.

In the latest sensational twist in the high-profile case, the Court of Final Appeal said her original trial - in which Kissel's claim to have acted in self-defence against a husband she described as violent and abusive was rejected - had been unfair.

Kissel's solicitor Simon Clarke said her legal team was considering an application for a permanent stay of proceedings because she could not get a fair trial after all the publicity surrounding the case.

"Basically, we are saying 'Can the "milk shake murderer" get a fair trial in Hong Kong?' Probably not," Clarke said.

He said they were also considering a bail application but Kissel had not decided yet whether to proceed.

A bail application could be made within four to eight weeks and an application for a stay within two to three months.

Five years ago the Court of First Instance heard how Robert Kissel, a successful investment banker with Merrill Lynch, was fed a drug-laced milkshake before being bludgeoned to death with a metal ornament in the family's flat on the luxurious Parkview estate in Tai Tam. Jurors heard how Kissel wrapped the body in a carpet and had it placed in a rented store room.

Kissel, who is confined to a wheelchair following a knee injury, was taken from the dock in tears after hearing yesterday's unanimous ruling, She had also wept before proceedings began, but composed herself before the appeal justices stepped into the courtroom.

"[Nancy] is very, very happy," her friend Nancy Nassberg said outside court. "Justice has been served," said Samra Geertruida, another friend of the 45-year-old mother of three.

Kissel's mother, Jean McGlothlin, who had been in court throughout the six-day hearing, left the city before judgment was delivered.

New York-based John LaCause, who, with his wife, Elizabeth, is a friend and supporter of Kissel, admitted there was still a long battle ahead but said the ruling offered her "a first glimmer of hope".

"The thing is, you don't do what she did just to be with a television repairman. Nobody would accept even the thought that Rob, whose brother is totally screwed up in the head ... could be anything other than a saint," LaCause said.

But Daniel Williams, a childhood friend of Robert Kissel, was appalled. "My best friend was taken from us in November 2003 by a vicious murderer whose only problem was she was no longer in love with her husband of 12 years but in love with a television repairman in Vermont," Williams said from Florida.

It emerged at her trial that Kissel had a secret lover in the US state of Vermont, television repairman Michael Del Priore.

In their ruling, Mr Justice Andrew Li Kwok-nang, the chief justice, Mr Justice Syed Kemal Bokhary, Mr Justice Patrick Chan Siu-oi, Mr Justice Roberto Ribeiro and Sir Anthony Mason said the way prosecutor Peter Chapman had conducted his cross-examination of Kissel had resulted in an unfair trial.

At trial, Chapman asked Kissel why the prison psychiatrist treating her had stated in her medical report that she was "mentally stable" when this contradicted her claim of memory loss. The judges said the prosecution should have called the doctor to testify if was going to rely heavily on his evidence.

It also found that the trial judge, Mr Justice Michael Lunn, had erred in ruling that evidence from a confidante of Robert Kissel and from his private investigator about the banker's suspicions that his wife intended to drug and kill him weeks before his death were relevant to Kissel's self-defence claim.

At the trial, Kissel said she killed her husband, whom she married in 1989, in self-defence when he came at her with a baseball bat while she was carrying a heavy metal ornament.

She described him as an abusive and brutal man who frequently assaulted her and forced her to commit depraved sexual acts.

On the night he died, November 2, 2003, there had been a confrontation about divorce and custody of their children. She said the last thing she remembered was him coming at her with the baseball bat screaming, "I'm going to kill you, you f****ng b***h".

The case transfixed newspaper readers and television audiences on both sides of the Pacific, spawning a best-selling book and a television movie in the United States. Early in the three-month trial, jurors were shown a number of bloodstained and foul-smelling items from the master bedroom of the Kissels' flat, including bedding, towels, a T-shirt and tissue paper.

The jury were also given a close-up view of a blood-spattered television set and chest of drawers taken from the room where Robert Kissel was killed.

The public was captivated by testimony that the banker had searched websites on gay pornography and sex services in Taiwan before a three-day trip there. Excitement grew to a crescendo two months later with Kissel's admission she killed her husband. On August 4, the court and public gallery were packed as the prosecutor began cross-examining her.

Few in Hong Kong or the US were surprised when the jury announced on September 1 that they had found Kissel guilty of murder. The then 41-year-old was expressionless in the dock as guards put her in handcuffs and escorted her to a prison van. Her mother and friends broke down in court.

New York newspaper headlines screamed "Black Widow" and "Life for Wife". But the twists did not end there. A few months later, the dead banker's older brother, Andrew, a wealthy property developer, was found stabbed to death in the basement of his Connecticut home, his hands and feet tied. Then the Kissels' children - Elaine, now 15, June, now 12, and Reis, now nine - sued their mother for the wrongful death of their father.


(Asia Times)  Milkshake murder conviction quashed   By Olivia Chung.  February 12, 2010.

Nancy Kissel, the American banker's wife serving life in prison for the "milkshake murder" of her husband, had her conviction thrown out on Thursday by Hong Kong's highest court in a dramatic turn in one the territory's most sensational trials.

The Court of Final Appeal said in its judgment there were "numerous elements of grave concern" when reviewing the case to decide if Kissel had received a "fair trial". "The court unanimously allows the appeal, quashes the conviction and orders a retrial," chief justice Andrew Li said. "It is plainly in the interests of justice that there should be a retrial," the judgment said.

Kissel was sentenced to life in prison in 2005 for killing her husband and fellow American, Robert Kissel, after a trail that rocked Hong Kong and its expatriate banking community. Kissel, now 45, was dubbed the "milkshake murderer" after being convicted of giving her husband, Robert, a sedatives-laced strawberry milkshake and then bludgeoning the senior investment banker with Merrill Lynch to death in 2003.

The court said prosecutors had used illegal evidence in the trial, but ordered that the mother of three be kept in custody pending a bail application ahead of her second trial. "Mrs Kissel killed Mr Kissel. That much is not in dispute. But was the killing certainly murder or might it have been in self-defense?" the court said in its judgment.

Kissel, looking frail in a wheelchair and dressed in her trademark black, barely reacted when Li read out the court's brief conclusion toward the end of the 111-page judgement.

She only broke into a smile when Alexander King, one of her barristers, approached to confirm to her what Li had read out. It was her last chance to appeal her conviction.

It was clear Kissel had concealed her husband's body after killing her husband, the court said. "But is it certain that she did that to hide a murder? Or might it be that she panicked and tried to hide the fact of the killing even though it had been in self-defense?

"The question is not whether a reasonable hypothetical jury that had sat through a fair trial free from any material irregularity and had been properly directed could, or even probably would, convict," the court said. "It is whether such a jury would inevitably feel sure that Mrs Kissel was lying from start to finish and that she had planned and carried out a coldly calculated murder."

During the 2005 trial, Kissel, a native of Minnesota, said she killed her husband in self-defense because he was wielding a baseball bat. She described her fear of the 40-year-old banker, saying he was a violent, whisky-drinking workaholic who snorted cocaine and forced her to have painful anal sex.

Prosecutors said Robert Kissel found out his wife was having an affair with a TV repairman in the United States and had planned to seek a divorce just before she killed him. She drugged him using a milkshake laced with the "date-rape drug" Rohypnol and hours later bludgeoned him to death with a metal ornament in the bedroom of their luxury apartment in Hong Kong, prosecutors said. She wrapped the body in a rug and asked maintenance workers to take it to a storeroom, according to the prosecution.

Robert Kissel had hired a private investigator to track his wife's movements in the US - where she went during the SARS outbreak in Hong Kong in 2003 - and had installed spyware on her computer and told friends he feared his whisky was drugged. His estate was worth US$18 million in life insurance, stocks and properties, according to prosecutors.

Simon Clarke, Kissel's lawyer, told reporters that her legal team was considering asking for a permanent stay of proceedings on the grounds that it would be impossible for her to have a fair trial following media coverage of the case.

"Basically, we are saying 'Can the milkshake murderer get a fair trial in Hong Kong'? Probably not," Clarke said. He said he didn't expect a retrial before September. Kissel could walk free if the court granted the request.

Samra Geertruida, a defense witness, said she and Kissel's other friends were "very pleased" and would immediately apply for bail for her. "Justice has finally been done," said Geertruida, who described Kissel as "spiritually fine, although her body is weak".

Kissel's conviction was upheld in 2008 after her first appeal and she was granted leave for her second appeal on February 10 last year.

Representing Kissel at the Court of Final Appeal in January, senior counsel Gerard McCoy argued the prosecution had broken evidence rules in applying a proviso from a separate bail proceeding in November 2004, which attested Kissel's sound mental health.

At the 2005 murder trial, prosecutor Peter Chapman used the material in cross-examining Kissel about her mental state. Chapman had tried to use the material to discredit her claim of having an unsound mind when she claimed to be under mental duress from years of abuse at the hands of her husband.

Chief Justice Li said the proviso could properly be applied to the Kissel case.

"Mrs Kissel's case wholly depended on her credibility. Her marital infidelity was relevant to a possible motive for murdering her husband. But if her account of the history of the marriage is true, some people might say that she had to some extent been driven to that infidelity ... Applying the proviso would be to pronounce that Mrs Kissel must have been lying, so pronouncing without having seen or heard her."

"The proviso is an instrument of justice. As there have been in the past, there are likely to be in the future many cases in which it would be appropriate to apply the proviso. But the present case is not such a case. Accordingly, I would allow the appeal to quash the conviction," said the judgment.

In 2006, another tragedy hit the Kissel family when Robert's brother, Andrew, was found stabbed to death in his Connecticut home.


(International Herald Tribune)  'Milkshake murder' conviction overturned   By Mark MacDonald.  February 13, 2010.

Hong Kong's highest court overturned on Thursday the murder conviction of an American woman who allegedly spiked her husband's strawberry milkshake with a date-rape drug and then bashed him in the head with a brass figurine.

The Court of Final Appeal ordered a new trial for the American, Nancy Kissel, who admitted killing her husband, Robert, a wealthy investment banker for Merrill Lynch, during an argument about divorce and the custody of their three children.

Mrs. Kissel struck her husband with the eight-pound statuette, and an autopsy showed five separate blows to the skull, any one of which would have killed him. She then wrapped his body in a sleeping bag, an Oriental rug and plastic sheeting, securing it with rope and duct tape.

The police discovered the body four days later in a storeroom at the family's luxurious Hong Kong apartment house, the Parkview. In the meantime, prosecutors said, she ordered new carpet, cushions and furniture for the home.

Mrs. Kissel, 46, from Adrian, Mich., has contended that she was a victim of domestic violence and killed her husband in self-defense. She said he had often forced her to have anal and oral sex, drank heavily and used cocaine. In the argument at the time of the killing, she said, he threatened her with a baseball bat.

In their ruling Thursday, the justices cited prejudicial evidence by the prosecution that was not properly explained to the jury or dismissed by the original trial judge. One of the five justices, Kemal Bokhary, said there were "many instances" of "harm being done by prosecuting counsel and not being undone or even mitigated" by Justice Michael Lunn of the High Court.

The result, Mr. Bokhary concluded, was "a departure from accepted norms so serious as to constitute a substantial and grave injustice for which her conviction should be quashed."

The murder took place in November 2003, and Mrs. Kissel was convicted in September 2005 and sentenced to life in prison. Her first appeal, in October 2008, was denied. The court on Thursday made a point of identifying the original trial judge, Mr. Lunn, and the three appellate justices who erred, an unusually pointed rebuke in the Hong Kong legal community.

Mrs. Kissel, who appeared in court Thursday in a wheelchair, was not granted bail and remained in custody. There was no immediate indication whether her defense team would seek bail. A Hong Kong criminal attorney who asked not to be identified said a new trial was not likely to start before autumn.

With its sensational revelations, the trial over the "milkshake murder," as the case has been called, mesmerized the Hong Kong expatriate community, a mostly well-to-do group of business executives, bankers and lawyers that enjoy a lavish social life, generous housing allowances, household staffs and expensive private schools for the children.

Two books were written about the case: "Never Enough," by Joe McGinnis, and "A Family Cursed," by Kevin F. McMurray.

Robert and Nancy Kissel were married in New York in 1989 and moved to Hong Kong in 1997. But their marriage had "seriously deteriorated" by the Christmas holidays of 2002, said Andrew Li, the chief justice of the Court of Final Appeal. A family skiing holiday that year, at Whistler, British Columbia, "involved a number of unhappy incidents," Mr. Li wrote in the court's 118-page ruling.

Mr. Kissel installed spyware on his wife's computer and hired a private investigator to catch her in an affair X later acknowledged by Mrs. Kissel X with a man who installed audio and video equipment at their vacation house in Vermont.

Mrs. Kissel admitted to previously doctoring her husband's whisky with Ambien X to calm him down, she said X and she had searched the Internet for the side-effects of several drugs, including Rohypnol, the so-called date-rape drug. An autopsy found Rohypnol in Mr. Kissel's system, along with four other medications that had been prescribed for Mrs. Kissel by a psychiatrist less than 10 days before the killing.

Mr. Kissel, from Upper Saddle River, N.J., reportedly left an estate worth $18 million, and his wife was the principal beneficiary of his will.

The couple's three children X all younger than 10 when the killing took place X initially lived with their maternal grandfather near Chicago. But when he was unable to care adequately for the children, custody went to Mr. Kissel's brother, Andrew, and his wife, Hayley, who lived in Greenwich, Conn.

In 2005, however, Andrew Kissel was charged by federal prosecutors with real estate fraud amounting to tens of millions of dollars, and he was forced to wear an electronic ankle monitor. In April 2006, he was found murdered in his home in Greenwich.

The children are now believed to be living near Seattle with Jane K. Clayton, their paternal aunt.

In summarizing the court's ruling on Thursday, Mr. Bokhary said that Robert Kissel's death at the hands of his wife "is not in dispute."

''But was the killing certainly murder or might it have been in self-defense?" he wrote.

The justice also said that "it is clear" that Mrs. Kissel worked to conceal the body.

''But is it certain that she did that to hide a murder? Or might it be that she panicked and tried to hide the fact of the killing even though it had been in self-defense?"

That is what a new trial will presumably decide.
Hong Kong's highest court overturned on Thursday the murder conviction of an American woman who allegedly spiked her husband's strawberry milkshake with a date-rape drug and then bashed him in the head with a brass figurine.

The Court of Final Appeal ordered a new trial for the American, Nancy Kissel, who admitted killing her husband, Robert, a wealthy investment banker for Merrill Lynch, during an argument about divorce and the custody of their three children.

Mrs. Kissel struck her husband with the eight-pound statuette, and an autopsy showed five separate blows to the skull, any one of which would have killed him. She then wrapped his body in a sleeping bag, an Oriental rug and plastic sheeting, securing it with rope and duct tape.

The police discovered the body four days later in a storeroom at the family's luxurious Hong Kong apartment house, the Parkview. In the meantime, prosecutors said, she ordered new carpet, cushions and furniture for the home.

Mrs. Kissel, 46, from Adrian, Mich., has contended that she was a victim of domestic violence and killed her husband in self-defense. She said he had often forced her to have anal and oral sex, drank heavily and used cocaine. In the argument at the time of the killing, she said, he threatened her with a baseball bat.

In their ruling Thursday, the justices cited prejudicial evidence by the prosecution that was not properly explained to the jury or dismissed by the original trial judge. One of the five justices, Kemal Bokhary, said there were "many instances" of "harm being done by prosecuting counsel and not being undone or even mitigated" by Justice Michael Lunn of the High Court.

The result, Mr. Bokhary concluded, was "a departure from accepted norms so serious as to constitute a substantial and grave injustice for which her conviction should be quashed."

The murder took place in November 2003, and Mrs. Kissel was convicted in September 2005 and sentenced to life in prison. Her first appeal, in October 2008, was denied. The court on Thursday made a point of identifying the original trial judge, Mr. Lunn, and the three appellate justices who erred, an unusually pointed rebuke in the Hong Kong legal community.

Mrs. Kissel, who appeared in court Thursday in a wheelchair, was not granted bail and remained in custody. There was no immediate indication whether her defense team would seek bail. A Hong Kong criminal attorney who asked not to be identified said a new trial was not likely to start before autumn.

With its sensational revelations, the trial over the "milkshake murder," as the case has been called, mesmerized the Hong Kong expatriate community, a mostly well-to-do group of business executives, bankers and lawyers that enjoy a lavish social life, generous housing allowances, household staffs and expensive private schools for the children.

Two books were written about the case: "Never Enough," by Joe McGinnis, and "A Family Cursed," by Kevin F. McMurray.

Robert and Nancy Kissel were married in New York in 1989 and moved to Hong Kong in 1997. But their marriage had "seriously deteriorated" by the Christmas holidays of 2002, said Andrew Li, the chief justice of the Court of Final Appeal. A family skiing holiday that year, at Whistler, British Columbia, "involved a number of unhappy incidents," Mr. Li wrote in the court's 118-page ruling.

Mr. Kissel installed spyware on his wife's computer and hired a private investigator to catch her in an affair X later acknowledged by Mrs. Kissel X with a man who installed audio and video equipment at their vacation house in Vermont.

Mrs. Kissel admitted to previously doctoring her husband's whisky with Ambien X to calm him down, she said X and she had searched the Internet for the side-effects of several drugs, including Rohypnol, the so-called date-rape drug. An autopsy found Rohypnol in Mr. Kissel's system, along with four other medications that had been prescribed for Mrs. Kissel by a psychiatrist less than 10 days before the killing.

Mr. Kissel, from Upper Saddle River, N.J., reportedly left an estate worth $18 million, and his wife was the principal beneficiary of his will.

The couple's three children X all younger than 10 when the killing took place X initially lived with their maternal grandfather near Chicago. But when he was unable to care adequately for the children, custody went to Mr. Kissel's brother, Andrew, and his wife, Hayley, who lived in Greenwich, Conn.

In 2005, however, Andrew Kissel was charged by federal prosecutors with real estate fraud amounting to tens of millions of dollars, and he was forced to wear an electronic ankle monitor. In April 2006, he was found murdered in his home in Greenwich.

The children are now believed to be living near Seattle with Jane K. Clayton, their paternal aunt.

In summarizing the court's ruling on Thursday, Mr. Bokhary said that Robert Kissel's death at the hands of his wife "is not in dispute."

''But was the killing certainly murder or might it have been in self-defense?" he wrote.

The justice also said that "it is clear" that Mrs. Kissel worked to conceal the body.

''But is it certain that she did that to hide a murder? Or might it be that she panicked and tried to hide the fact of the killing even though it had been in self-defense?"

That is what a new trial will presumably decide.


(TIME)  The Milkshake Murder: Hong Kong's Trial of the Decade is Back   By Adam Rose.  February 15, 2010.

One night in Hong Kong in November 2003, American expat Nancy Kissel smashed her husband's skull with a heavy lead ornament. Four days later, police discovered his rotting corpse, wrapped in a carpet in the basement storeroom of the luxury apartment complex where the couple lived. An autopsy found a cocktail of sedatives in his stomach and liver. The 39-year-old mother of three was accused of giving her husband a sedative-laced milkshake before clubbing him to death, and in 2005, Kissel was convicted of premeditated murder and sentenced to life. In her first appeal, which she lost, the court called it "as cogent a case of murder as might be imagined."

Hong Kong's notorious "milkshake murder" case may have seemed cogent, but last week Hong Kong's top court disagreed. The court granted Kissel her second and final appeal, ordering a re-trial and creating the possibility that Hong Kong's murder trial of the decade will be replayed in court. "Mrs. Kissel killed Mr. Kissel. That much is not in dispute," wrote the Court of Final Appeal wrote in a unanimous decision. "But was the killing certainly murder or might it have been in self-defence?"

The first time around, the real-life courtroom drama captivated Hong Kong's expat community and made headlines as far away as New York, spawning a made-for-TV movie and a true-crime bestseller. During the 2005 trial, the prosecution chipped away at Kissel's credibility by revealing she had a secret lover in Vermont X a television repairman. The team put a private investigator on the stand who said that her husband, an investment banker, told him he was worried his wife was trying to poison him X testimony that the appeals court judge dismissed last week as hearsay that should have been deemed inadmissable in court.

Kissel's lawyers, however, painted a different picture; one of a sexually abusive husband who trawled the web for escorts and gay porn. Kissel admitted that she killed her husband, but said that he had come at her with a baseball bat and that she had been defending herself. Her doctor testified that Kissel didn't show any signs of being physically attacked with a bat, but later said it was possible she was assaulted. Kissel sidestepped the question of whether or not she had served her husband a drug-laced milkshake. As the local English daily the South China Morning Post noted at the time, few were surprised when the verdict came in guilty.

If tried again, Kissel's lawyers hope to argue that she was mentally impaired at the time of the killing. She might walk away with time served. A new trial, however, may reveal less about the milkshake murder than it does about the health of Hong Kong's judicial system. The Court of Final Appeal quashed Kissel's earlier conviction on the grounds that the prosecution relied on hearsay from the private investigator, and that the trial judge misdirected the jury on the question of self-defense.

How could a lower appeals court call the case "as cogent ... as might be imagined" if the top court found such glaring problems? It's a glaring question for Hong Kong's judicial system to answer. In Hong Kong, roughly 75% of not-guilty pleas end in a conviction; in England and Wales, that figure is less than 8%. One prominent lawyer, Clive Grossman, once compared Hong Kong's rate of conviction to North Korea's. "An arrested person is, statistically, almost certain to face imprisonment," he wrote in the preface to the latest edition of a criminal law reference book.

It wasn't a flattering comparison. In the meantime, Kissel can apply to be released on bail, and her lawyers have already started to argue publicly that the media circus surrounding her first trial will make it impossible for her to get a fair hearing. As he told reporters last week, "'Can the "milk shake murderer" get a fair trial in Hong Kong?' Probably not." In the end, that might just be her strongest argument.