A Hong Kong jury reconvened today to decide whether Nancy Kissel is guilty of murder or manslaughter in the 2003 killing of her Merrill Lynch & Co. banker husband.
Kissel’s family members, trial spectators and journalists waited outside the courtroom after High Court Judge Andrew Macrae sent the seven women and two men back to their jury room at 9:30 a.m. The foreman told Macrae yesterday the panel may deliver a verdict today. The jurors didn’t reach a decision after more than 5 hours yesterday.
Michigan-born Nancy Kissel is being tried for plotting the murder of her husband Robert Kissel, a 40-year-old distressed assets specialist at Merrill, on the night of Nov. 2, 2003. She admitted to manslaughter, saying that she was mentally ill and lost self-control after hearing her husband had filed for divorce and would take custody of their children.
Defense lawyer Derek Chan declined to comment yesterday on sentencing options. Her lawyers previously said they would seek a manslaughter sentence of eight to 12 years. The mother of three served more than six years of a life sentence for her 2005 murder conviction, which was quashed on appeal.
Macrae yesterday directed the jurors to find the 46-year- old defendant guilty of manslaughter if they conclude she may have been provoked or if mental illness “substantially” impaired her self-control. No more than two jurors can be in disagreement for a verdict to be returned.
Defense lawyer Edward Fitzgerald called 16 witnesses to support his case that Nancy Kissel endured years of physical and sexual abuse. At least six witnesses, including parents at the Hong Kong International School, where two of the Kissel children were enrolled, testified they saw Nancy Kissel with a black eye between 1998 and 2003.
A psychiatrist said by the time of the killing, she was likely suffering from clinical depression, which began after the birth of her third child in 1999. Later a psychologist testified Kissel showed symptoms of battered-woman syndrome.
Nancy Kissel, at 38 kilograms (84 pounds) and requiring the assistance of two corrections officers to walk, took the stand for five days in February. She gave accounts of being slapped, slammed against a glass panel and being forced into anal sex by a husband whose career kept him away from home.
“The more involved he got with investment banking, the more forceful he got with me sexually,” Kissel testified.
Prosecution lawyer David Perry presented Kissel with photographs from family vacations to challenge the truth of her allegations.
“Yes, we looked so beautiful together,” Kissel said. “But everything was so wrong.”
The prosecution sought to show the late banker was a victim of a “highly-organized” wife who had fallen out of love with her husband and wanted to “make him disappear.” She began an affair with an electrical technician in the U.S. during the summer of 2003, which her husband had discovered.
Evidence taken from Nancy Kissel’s computer showed the defendant had searched the Internet for sleeping pill overdose and heart-attack causing medications over two months before she made her husband a milkshake containing four drugs prescribed to her by two psychiatrists.
Later on the night of Nov. 2, 2003, as Robert Kissel lay incapacitated in bed, his wife smashed an eight-pound lead ornament against the side of his head, driving his skull into his brain, Perry said. Nancy Kissel lied about a confrontation in the bedroom of their apartment just before the killing in order to get away with murder, he argued.
“In the real world, after people lose their self-control, they are stricken with remorse,” Perry argued. “Did she call an ambulance? Did she call for help? Instead of telling anyone, she did everything in her power to conceal what she had done.”
Police discovered Robert Kissel’s body wrapped in a sleeping bag and rolled up in a carpet in a rented storeroom within the apartment complex. Nancy Kissel said on the stand she had no memory of events in the days following the killing, which a psychiatrist attributed to dissociative amnesia.
Hong Kong’s top court ruled last year that Kissel’s 2005 trial was unfair because prejudicial evidence against her was wrongly introduced.
The case is HKSAR v. Nancy Ann Kissel, HCCC55/2010 in the Hong Kong Court of First Instance.
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