Nancy Kissel launches bid to fight murder conviction

PUBLISHED : Monday, 14 April, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 14 April, 2008, 12:00am

Defence will challenge judge's summing up at trial

The long-anticipated bid by Nancy Kissel for the right to appeal against her conviction three years ago for murdering her high-flying banker husband is scheduled to start in the Court of Appeal today.

Kissel, 44, was jailed for life in September 2005 after being found guilty of murdering her husband, Robert, in the pair's luxury Parkview flat on November 2, 2003.

A Court of First Instance jury found she had drugged her husband, a senior manager at investment bank Merrill Lynch, with a barbiturate-laced milkshake before bludgeoning him to death in the couple's bedroom with an antique lead ornament.

She later rolled the body up in a carpet and had it moved into a storeroom below a neighbouring building, where it was found by police on November 6.

Kissel is, according to legal sources, the only European woman to have been convicted of murder in the city's history. At her trial, which lasted three months, it was suggested the killing was done in self-defence. Robert Kissel, it was claimed by the defence, had been a sadistic and brutal husband who had frequently beaten his wife with a baseball bat, habitually used cocaine and committed all manner of depraved sexual acts on her without her consent.

Those claims were rejected by the jury, which accepted the prosecution's case that the killing had been a cold and premeditated act carried out with the aim of freeing Kissel from her marriage so she could take up with a lover in the US.

Today Kissel will seek leave to appeal against her conviction from the Court of Appeal, presided over by Mr Justice Michael Stuart-Moore, with Mr Justice Frank Stock and Mr Justice Alan Wright.

It is understood the hearing, which is scheduled for eight days, will focus on several issues.

First, it will be claimed that in addition to the defences of self-defence and provocation, the jury should also have been allowed to consider diminished responsibility, even though Kissel had instructed her defence team that she did not want it to be an option.

Sources close to the case suggest there are expert reports that indicate Kissel was suffering from an abnormality of mind at the time that might have meant she was not entirely responsible for her actions. If such a finding were made, then the murder charge might have been reduced to one of manslaughter.

Kissel's team is also expected to try a novel avenue of appeal never attempted in Hong Kong. They are apparently preparing to claim that trial judge Mr Justice Michael Lunn spoke too quickly and for too long when summing up the defence case for the jury.

Experts from Britain are apparently on standby to give evidence that while the length of one section of summing up - 21/2 hours without a break - was too long for anyone to concentrate completely, the speed at which it was delivered put it beyond the realm of comprehension for a jury whose first language was not English.

The government is expected to vigorously rebut any suggestion that the trial was flawed in any respect, either evidentially or procedurally.