Sunny von Bulow

Martha Sharp Crawford von Bulow (September 1, 1932 – December 6 , 2008), known as Sunny von Bülow , was an heiress and socialite US . Her husband, Claus von Bülow(n. 1926), was convicted of attempting to murder her through an overdose of insulin , but the sentence was overturned following an Appeal . In the second trial was declared innocent , as the experts said that there had been no injection of insulin and that their symptoms could be attributed to excessive use of medications . The story was adapted in the book and in the movie, Reversal of Fortune . Sunny von Bülow lived almost 28 years in a vegetative state until she died in a New York asylum on December 6, 2008.

Childhood and marriages

Sunny was the only daughter of business tycoon George Crawford (former president of the company “Columbia Gas & Electric” 1 ) and his wife Annie-Laurie Warmack. She was born in the wagon of staff railroad of his father, in the path of Hot Springs, Virginia , to New York , 2 For this event was known as “Choo-Choo” (sound that imitates trains in English) when I was A girl before they started calling her “Sunny” because of her cheerful and smiling nature. 3 With the death of her father, when she was 4 years old, she inherited about 100 million US dollars. 2 His mother, the daughter of the founder of the company “International Shoe”, subsequently married the sculptor and writer Russell Aitken .

Martha “Sunny” Crawford married His Serene Highness Prince Alfred of Auersperg , son of Prince Alois von Auersperg and Countess Henrietta Larisch von Möennich, who was an Austrian tennis instructor . They had two children, Annie-Laurie (“Wing”, born in 1958) and Alexander Georg (born in 1959, who used the surname Auerperg, without the von ). The Auersperg divorced in 1965. At that time Sunny’s fortune surpassed $ 75 million. Alfred died in 1992 after a prolonged and irreversible coma of nine years following a car accident in 1983 in Austria. 3

On June 6, 1966, Sunny married Claus von Bülow , a former oil advisor to JP Getty, and had a daughter, Cosima von Bülow, in 1967. By 1979, stress and stress developed in her marriage, and Both Sunny and Claus talked openly about the possibility of divorce. 4 On December 26, 1979 after the family reunited for Christmas at her Newport, Rhode Island mansion , Sunny was found unconscious and was promptly taken to the hospital where she fell into a coma but was revived. After days of testing, doctors determined that the coma happened as a result of hypoglycemia , warned against allowing too much candy or being long without food. 5 Although they still did not suspect a crime, Claus was later accused of causing this incident by injecting Sunny with insulin. 6 In April 1980, Sunny was hospitalized again after acting inconsistently and disoriented; Her doctors confirmed that Sunny had ” reactive hypoglycaemia .” She was warned to maintain control of hypoglycemia by following a strict diet, limiting ingested sugar and avoiding alcohol. 7

1980 incident and indictment

On the afternoon of December 21, 1980, while celebrating Christmas with her family at her mansion, Claredndon Court, in Newport, Rhode Island, Sunny again manifested confusion and incoordination. Her family laid her down on the bed, but found her lying on the bathroom floor in the morning unconscious. She was taken to the hospital where it became apparent that this time the brain damage caused was enough to produce a persistent vegetative state . Although the clinical manifestations resembled an overdose, some of the laboratory evidence suggested hypoglycemia . The appellate court requested the report of the notes taken by the auersperg juvenile lawyer. He noted that Claus did not want to end life support as had been alleged. Due to increased marital tensions between Claus and Sunny in the fall of 1980, their children suspected that the brain damage was the result of a criminal act by Claus. Sunny’s two eldest sons persuaded Richard H. Kuh , the district’s former district attorney, to investigate the possibility of Claus attempting to murder his mother. After evidence was gathered, Rhode Island lawyers presented the case to the grand jury who returned the charge, and in July 1981, Claus was convicted of two attempted murders.

First judgment

The case attracted advertising nationwide in the United States. The trial began in February 1982. Evidence presented by the trial consisted of circumstantial evidence, imputation for financial reasons, important testimonies by several servants, including Maria Schrallhammer a prominent witness in both trials, 8 drivers, doctors, and personal trainers, A black bag containing medications, and a used syringe, which was reported to contain trace amounts of insulin, found in the Claus von Bülow mansion. There was great evidence of Sunny’s excessive use of sedatives, vitamins, and other drugs, including testimony to alcohol and substance abuse problems. The endocrinologist from Harvard George Cahill testified that he was convinced that brain damage was caused by the injection of insulin . The jury was convinced and Claus was convicted.


Bülow hired Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz to file his appeal. Alan Dershowitz’s campaign to acquit Bülow was then attended by Harvard Law School students and later by television figure Jim Cramer ; Cramer recognized himself first and then wrote to the audience that Bülow was “supremely guilty” (extremely guilty) of the crime. 9 Dershowitz and her other lawyers presented proof that Sunny overdosed, including the testimony of both Truman Capote and Joanne Carson (the stern wife of Johnny Carson ) and more than ten friends of Sunny. Some of the testimonies of the experts were excluded by being counted as hypotheses or rumors. Other experts doubted the validity of having found a syringe with leftover insulin as a test. The appellate court overturned the conviction for a number of reasons, including the appeal court’s decision that justice for the accused should override the attorney-client privilege; And that after that the notes taken by Kuh, Auersperg’s juvenile lawyer, had to be revealed. These notes were claimed to challenge the credibility of Sunny’s maid, Ms. Schrallhammer, who had been a key witness in the indictment.

In the second trial the defense called eight medical experts, all universally known university professors, who testified that the two commas that Sunny suffered were not caused by insulin, but by the combination of drug, alcohol, and Their chronic health problems. The experts were John Caronna (chair of neurology, Cornell); Leo Dal Cortivo (former president, US Toxicology Association); Ralph DeFronzo (medicine, Yale); Kurt Dubowski (forensic pathology, University of Oklahoma); Daniel Foster (medicine, University of Texas); Daniel Furst, (medicine, University of Iowa); Harold Lebovitz (director of clinical research, State University of New York); Vincent Marks (Clinical Biochemist, Surrey, Vice President of the “Royal College of Pathologists” and President, Clinical Biochemistry Association); And Arthur Rubinstein (medicine, University of Chicago).

Other experts testified that the hypodermic needle contaminated with insulin from the outside (not from the inside) could have been submerged in insulin but not injected. (If it had been injected into the flesh the needle would have been clean). The evidence also showed that Sunny’s admission to the hospital three weeks before the last coma showed that she had ingested at least 73 aspirin pills, a quantity that could only have been given by herself and which indicated her state of mind. [ Citation needed ]

Dr. Cahill retracted his testimony of the first trial and opined that insulin was the most reasonable explanation for Sunny’s coma, but that “neither he nor anyone else could ever be 100 percent certain of the cause of the comas.” (Neither he nor anyone could ever be 100% sure of the cause of the coma). 10


Sunny’s family remembered convinced that Claus had tried to kill Sunny and was sad that Cosima had put on her father’s side. As a result, in 1981, Sunny’s mother, Annie Laurie Aitken, harassed Cosima, 11 denying her share of ownership of Aitken’s death on May 4 in 1984. 12 In July 1985, ten days after That Claus was acquitted in his second trial, Ala and Alexander filed a claim of $ 56 million against Claus, in defense of his mother. 13 On December 24, 1987, this case was not admitted when Claus agreed to divorce Sunny, abandoning possible claims of his fortune, which were later estimated to be between $ 25 million and $ 40 million, and to leave the country. In return Cosima was reinstated in the will of Aitken and received 30 million dollars as his third part of the property. 11 13

After the trials, Ala and Alexander founded the Sunny von Bullow National Victim Advocacy Center in Fort Worth FortWorth, Texas , now the National Crime Victim Center . (National Center for Victims of Crime) [1] in Washington, DC, and Research Foundation coma and cranial trauma (Sunny von Bulow Coma and Head Trauma Research Foundation) in New York . 3 Sunny continued in a coma until her death by a cariopulmonary arrest on December 6, 2008, at the “Mary Manning Walsh Nursing Home” residence in New York. 3 His memorial service was given by his three sons on Jan. 14, 2009, in the Brick Presbyterian Church in New York it was the same church where they married von Bulow. 14


Claus’s lawyer Alan M Dershowitz wrote a book on the case, Reversal of Fortune: Inside the von Bülowlow (New York, Random House 1986 and London, Penguin Books 1991).

Televised accounts

The 1990 film The Mystery Von Bulow was based on Dershowitz’s books on the case, with Glenn Close as Sunny and Jeremy Irons as Claus von Bülow, a work in which he was awarded Best Actor in the Academy Awards. Bill Kurtis narrated an episode of the American Justice series titled “Von Bulow: A Wealth of Evidence” (Von Bulow: wealth of evidence).
The television series American Biography produced and aired a documentary episode entitled “Claus von Bulow: A Reasonable Doubt” (Claus von Bulow: A reasonable doubt), with Claus Von Bulow interviews and Alan Dershowitz.

This story was also shown on truTV on the Dominick Dunne’s Power, Privilege, and Justice show in the episode entitled “The Von Blow Affair.”


  1. Back to top↑ “Martha ‘Sunny’ von Bulow, at 76; heiress fell into coma 28 years ago.” Boston Globe . 7 December 2008.
  2. ↑ Jump to:a b “Obituary.” The Scotsman . 7 December 2008.
  3. ↑ Jump to:a b c d Nemy, Enid (December 6, 2008). “Sunny von Bülow, 76, Focus of Drama Society, Dies .” The New York Times .
  4. Back to top↑ Gribben, Mark. «The Claus von Bulow Case» . P. 4. Archived from the original on November 25, 2015 . Retrieved on December 7, 2008 .
  5. Back to top↑ Gribben, Mark. «The Claus von Bulow Case» . P. 5. Archived from the original on November 25, 2015 . Retrieved on December 7, 2008 .
  6. Back to top↑ Dobnk, Verena (December 6, 2008). ‘Sunny von Bulow dead after 28 years in coma’ . The Star . Retrieved on December 7, 2008 .
  7. Back to top↑ Gribben, Mark. «The Claus von Bulow Case» . P. 6. Archived from the original on November 25, 2015 . Retrieved on December 7, 2008 .
  8. Back to top↑ Gribben, Mark. «The Claus von Bulow Case» . P. 26. Archived from the original on November 25, 2015 . Retrieved on December 7, 2008 .
  9. Back to top↑ Cramer, Jim (2005). Jim Cramer’s real money: sane investing in an insane world . Simon and Schuster . P. 27. ISBN  9780743224895 .
  10. Back to top↑ Friendly, Jonathan (May 17, 1985). «Insulin Probably Caused Comas, Doctor Asserts In Von Bulow Trial» . New York Times . Retrieved on December 7, 2008 .
  11. ↑ Jump to:a b Gribben, Mark. «The Claus von Bulow Case» . Archived from the original on November 25, 2015 . Retrieved on December 7, 2008 .
  12. Back to top↑ «Annie Laurie Aitken» . New York Times. May 5, 1984 . Retrieved on December 7, 2008 .
  13. ↑ Jump to:a b Hevesi, Dennis (December 24, 1987). «Von Bulow Says He Will Drop Claim to Money» . New York Times . Retrieved on December 7, 2008 .
  14. Back to top↑ Dunne, Dominick . “Sunny Memories.” Vanity Fair . January 30, 2009.