Nancy Kissel, who has admitted killing her Merrill Lynch & Co. banker husband, told Hong Kong’s High Court yesterday that he was an absent spouse who physically and sexually abused her.
“The more involved he got with investment banking, the more forceful he was with me sexually,” Kissel, 46, told the nine-member jury in her retrial for murder.
Kissel’s lawyer Edward Fitzgerald said earlier the Michigan-born mother of three was provoked by Robert Kissel on the night of his Nov. 2, 2003 death. Fitzgerald said he will call specialists in depression and post-traumatic stress disorder to show that her mental condition at the time makes her less culpable for the killing, he said.
Nancy Kissel was convicted of murder in 2005 and sentenced to life in prison. Hong Kong’s Court of Final Appeal ruled in February 2010 the conviction was unfair and ordered a new trial. Kissel’s application for a halt to the criminal proceedings was rejected by Judge Andrew Macrae in November. The retrial began Jan. 11 and resumes tomorrow after a recess today.
Prosecutors rejected Kissel’s guilty plea to manslaughter and argued that she drugged her husband Robert, bludgeoned him to death in their bedroom and hid the body in a storeroom. She was the main beneficiary of his $18 million estate and was having an affair at the time of the killing.
Walking unsteadily and wearing a lavender sweater and black pants, Kissel took the stand after Fitzgerald’s opening statement and told him that she currently weighed 38 kilograms (84 pounds), a loss of 16 kilograms since her imprisonment.
Club Med Vacation
She testified that she met her late husband in 1987 on a Club Med vacation and that they were “very much” in love when they wed in 1989.
“Having children was more something I really wanted. He didn’t think we were financially in a position to start a family,” Kissel said. “It was the first time that something came between us.”
Nancy Kissel gave birth to two girls in the U.S. before the couple moved in 1997 to Hong Kong with Robert Kissel’s then-employer Goldman Sachs Group Inc. Merrill hired him in 2000 to head its distressed assets business in Asia.
Kissel said her husband’s job took him on trips for weeks at a time, sometimes with only a day at home in between. When their son, who was born in Hong Kong, became ill and had to seek treatment in the U.S. in 2001, Robert chose to go to South Korea instead for a work trip, she said.
“I kept thinking, when is enough, enough? How much money do you need?” Nancy Kissel said. She said that between 1999 and 2002, her husband threw a punch at her, slapped her so hard she fell down, and pushed her down a flight of stairs. He also broke one of her ribs while forcing to her to have anal sex, she said.
Fitzgerald asked why she hadn’t mentioned these things to friends or family members.
“I always said, my marriage was wonderful, my life was wonderful because that’s what everyone saw. When you have money, you have expensive things. But things are not what make you happy. Things are not in your heart.”
The jury had heard during the prosecution’s arguments that Robert Kissel died at the hands of his intelligent and highly organized wife, who became unhappy with the marriage by 2002. Prosecution lawyer David Perry elicited testimony to support his argument from domestic helpers, former colleagues, forensics experts and Robert’s sister Jane Clayton.
Nancy began an affair with an electrical technician in Vermont in the summer of 2003 and Robert was preparing to divorce her, according to prosecution witnesses.
She conducted Internet searches for “overdose on sleeping pills” and “medications causing heart attack” in late August 2003, and then obtained four different prescriptions for sedatives from two psychiatrists, the jury was told.
Kissel blended the drugs into a milkshake she served to her husband, hours before she smashed his skull with the edge of an eight-pound lead ornament, Perry said.
Fitzgerald said yesterday that the choice of weapon was unusual for a murder, and suggested a “frenzied attack in a heightened state.” He added that there was no evidence of a plan for the disposal of the body, which remained in the bedroom for three days.
A manslaughter conviction may mean a sentence of eight to 12 years, her lawyers have said. She has already served more than six years in prison. The retrial is scheduled for 50 days.
The case is HKSAR v. Nancy Ann Kissel, HCCC55/2010 in Hong Kong’s High Court of First Instance.