Jurors consider manslaughter or murder in retrial of Nancy Kissel

PUBLISHED : Friday, 25 March, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 25 March, 2011, 12:00am

A jury is expected to continue deliberating today on whether American expatriate Nancy Kissel is guilty of murdering her Merrill Lynch investment banker husband.

By 8.30pm last night, more than five hours after the jury retired, a panel of nine had not finished deliberating in the Court of First Instance.

Mr Justice Andrew Macrae released the jurors to appointed quarters to spend the night and instructed them not to discuss the case until this morning.

The judge is expected to send them back to the jury room to continue their deliberations today.

Nancy Kissel pleaded not guilty to murder, but guilty to manslaughter on the basis of diminished responsibility and provocation, which the prosecution does not except.

She is accused of murdering Robert Kissel, 40, on or about November 2, 2003. The American mother of three, 46, faced a retrial after the Court of Final Appeal ruled that her first trial was flawed and unfair, and ordered a new trial.

Prosecutors say Robert Kissel drank a drug-laced milkshake, and that his wife then bludgeoned him to death with a heavy lead ornament before wrapping his body in a sleeping bag and carpet. It was alleged she had workmen remove it to a storeroom in Parkview, where the Kissel family lived.

Nancy Kissel's legal team said a cold-blooded, pre-planned murder that the prosecutors put forward did not make sense, and that their client had been suffering from depression.

Friends testified in support of Nancy Kissel's character and defence case. One friend, Nancy Nassberg, said she 'lived for her children'. 'Nancy was the type of mother who would do a conga line in a grocery store, act like a Teletubby and let them put her on the floor and put make-up on her. She wanted her children to have the best life ever.'

According to Nancy Kissel's case, on the night of November 2, 2003, Robert Kissel told her he was filing for divorce, that it was a done deal, and that she was unfit to care for her children, provoking her. Also according to what Nancy Kissel says, her husband subjected her to physical and sexual abuse long before that night.

The judge told the jury before it retired that at least seven of them must agree for a verdict. Should it return with a lesser majority, it should notify him and he would further direct jurors, he said.

'Each of you has taken an oath to return a true verdict. This is a responsibility you must now fulfil,' the judge said before the jury retired. 'Your task is to pool your wisdom. You do that by giving your views and hearing the views of others.'

Yesterday's developments came after the judge finished giving his directions, and prosecutors and Nancy Kissel's lawyers wrapped up their cases in closing submissions to the jury.

The judge directed the jury regarding the offences of murder and manslaughter, and how to consider the issues of provocation and diminished responsibility. He recounted evidence from witnesses called by the prosecution and defence in the case. The trial, scheduled for 50 days, is now in its 47th day.

The jury spent the last 21/2 months hearing evidence from more than 50 prosecution and defence witnesses in the form of live testimony and transcripts, depositions and statements read out by barristers. Jurors also heard facts that have been agreed between the two sides that are not subject to dispute.

Kissel is represented by Edward Fitzgerald QC, and the prosecution by David Perry QC.