Nancy Kissel, who admits to killing her Merrill Lynch & Co. banker husband in 2003, will ask Hong Kong’s highest court one last time to let her appeal a conviction for murder.
The mother-of-three is scheduled to argue tomorrow that jurors who handed her a second conviction in 2011 might not have properly considered evidence of her mental condition when she struck Robert Kissel in the head with a lead ornament. Nancy turned 50 in prison this month, some 10 years into a life sentence.
Her journey from a $20,000-a-month apartment with a view of the South China Sea to a prison cell along Hong Kong’s Chinese border has spawned books and a Lifetime Television movie. Media coverage intensified after Robert’s millionaire real estate developer brother, Andrew Kissel, was stabbed to death in 2006. If judges don’t agree tomorrow that there was injustice in her conviction or an important point of law arising, the appeals process will be over.
“Then the verdict of murder will be final, there will be no further basis to change it,” according to Simon Young, a law professor at the University of Hong Kong.
Hong Kong’s highest court ordered a new trial in 2010 after it found improper questioning and hearsay evidence had tainted Nancy’s 2005 conviction. During her retrial, she testified to a packed courtroom that her husband had physically abused and threatened to kill her. The jury of seven women and two men unanimously found her guilty of murder.
“I never intended to hurt him,” she said from the witness stand, in testimony punctuated by outbursts and visions of her husband. When asked by her lawyer if she remembered details of the November night Robert died, she said things in her mind didn’t make sense. “I can’t, I can’t, I can’t go back anymore.”
At both of her trials, prosecutors presented evidence Nancy obtained four types of prescription sedatives from psychiatrists, which she used to lace a milkshake drunk by her husband. A neighbor who had the same drink testified to being overcome with drowsiness when he got home for dinner.
Nancy bludgeoned her husband’s skull with an eight-pound lead ornament while he lay unconscious on their bed, hours after drinking the milkshake, prosecutors said. They rejected her offer to plead guilty to the lesser charge of manslaughter before the second trial.
Police discovered Robert’s body four days after the killing inside a family storeroom at the Hong Kong Parkview housing estate, following a missing person’s report made by a Merrill colleague. According to prosecutors’ evidence, the body was concealed in a sleeping bag rolled up inside a carpet.
Roberto Ribeiro, one of five justices who ordered the 2011 retrial, is on the three-judge panel scheduled to decide tomorrow if it should set a date to hear her appeal. Defense lawyers failed in December to convince a lower court that the conviction was unsafe or unsatisfactory.
Nancy abandoned a transfer request to the U.S. following her second conviction when she was advised her Hong Kong life sentence doesn’t allow for the possibility of parole back home.
The Kissels moved to Hong Kong from New York in 1997 with Goldman Sachs Group Inc., where Robert then worked as co-head of the bank’s Asian special situations group. Merrill hired him in 2000 for an annual salary of $175,000 and he earned an additional $5.25 million in commissions and bonuses before his death in November 2003.
Defense lawyers have argued Nancy was depressed, suffered from battered woman syndrome and was provoked by her husband before she killed him. Prosecutors said she was the main beneficiary of her husband’s $18 million estate and was having an affair at the time of the killing.
The case is Nancy Ann Kissel and HKSAR, FAMC63/2013. Hong Kong Court of Final Appeal.