Albrecht Muth, charged with the August murder of his wife, Viola Drath, has for the moment ended his “fast,” or hunger strike, but today DC Superior Court judge Russell Canan ordered that he be transferred to St. Elizabeth’s Hospital for a full competency evaluation. It could take as long as a month.
Muth, still hospitalized at United Medical Center, was represented at the morning hearing by his public defenders, Dana Page and Craig Hickein. Also speaking about his status was Maria Amato of the Department of Corrections, who said he was “currently not at risk because he has resumed eating,” and Dr. Nader Marzban, who had seen Muth as early as today before the hearing.
Marzban said United Medical Center had 16 people evaluate Muth, including three psychiatrists. “They think he has psychosis,” he said. “When I saw him yesterday, he was delusional. He sees the archangel Gabriel, and he talks with the archangel Gabriel.” Marzban quoted Muth as saying it was Gabriel who directed him to begin the fast he started in November and which caused his hospitalization due to dehydration and other medical issues. Last week his condition was described as bordering on grave.
He’s eating again, but Marzban said Muth told him, “In seven days he will resume the fast for 40 days.” Marzban quoted Muth as saying he’s trained for fasting. “He said he’s like a camel. He can sip water and hold it.”
Muth has long publicly held that he is a general in the Iraqi Army, and Marzban said he brought that up again this morning. He described his exchange with Muth about the pending case against him.
“Why are you here?” Marzban asked Muth.
“They say I killed my wife.”
“No, I did not. For convenience, they arrested me.”
Marzban said he advised Muth that he needs a lawyer or he will be put away for the rest of his life. To that, Marzban said that Muth replied, “God will take care of that.”
Muth’s public defenders appeared taken aback by Marzban’s candor. After he spoke, Page said to the court, “We do object to anyone discussing his case with him.”
Judge Canan listened to everyone, including prosecutor Glenn Kirschner, and said, “The court is finding he’s [Muth] mentally incompetent to proceed with trial at this point, to assist his lawyers.” He set a new arraignment date for March 14, when he will hear the Saint Elizabeth’s competency evaluation.
In November, about the time he stopped eating, Muth fired his public defenders and said he would defend himself against the charges that he strangled Drath in the upstairs bathroom of their Georgetown home. Last week, Canan said he was not competent to defend himself.
The judge noted today that “the trial is many, many months away.” At the outset, members of Drath’s family attended the preliminary hearings. Not one was in sight today. Apart from a few reporters, the others in the hearing room seemed to be there for other cases.