Judge Russel Canan will decide this week between two starkly different interpretations of Albrecht Muth's competence to stand trial: Is he a lying narcissist or a delusional liar?
Muth, who is being held at St. Elizabeths mental hospital, is charged in the . The couple lived in a townhouse on Q Street in Georgetown until Drath’s murder.
Whether he'll be able to face charges for that crime, though, is something upon which medical experts have yet to agree.
During a five-hour first day of a competency hearing Monday, the prosecution offered a short audio clip of a conversation between Muth and Dr. Robert Phillips, who for months has argued Muth is competent to stand trial.
In the recordings, Muth can be heard maintaining his assertion that he is an Iraqi Brigadier General is “the singularly biggest objective that I have in these proceedings.”
He said it is partially critical for his own vanity, but also it is important for his legal defense. He maintains his wife’s death was the result of a botched “hit” directed at him by Iranian agents.
From his conversations with Muth and evaluation of other information, Phillips said he disagrees with previous evaluations by St. Elizabeths' doctors that Muth was delusional and not competent.
"Mr. Muth's fabrications are all in service of a very goal-oriented circumstance," explained Phillips, one of two doctors that shared the same opinion with the court in August.
St. Elizabeths doctors changed their evaluation telling the court Muth was fit for trial in September.
Muth's determination to model himself as an Iraqi General in court was a "clear choice" on his part and one that was made by weighing a variety of information, Phillips said.
"I don't think there is any question that he has a rational understanding of the evidence in this case," Phillips said.
But an expert witness for the defense Monday said he categorically disagreed.
"He can be delusional and a liar and I think he is both," said Dr. Shawn Agharkar, an expert brought in by Muth's defense team.
Muth's delusional obsession with being an Iraqi general renders him incapable of assisting counsel in his own defense, Agharkar said.
Though an alternate defense exists — that much of the evidence in the case appears to be circumstantial — Muth "never shows that he can consider another defense theory," Agharkar said.
He "can't make a volitional choice [of another defense] because [his proposed defense] is born of the delusion," Agharkar said.
Proving he is an Iraqi general is more important to Muth than a viable defense and that, Agharkar said, is evidence in itself of his delusion.
But Phillips said Muth's fixation on proving he is an Iraqi general is part of a "con" for his own "emotional benefit," and not based on delusion. Muth does not fit any of the "diagnostic models" typically used by psychologists to label behavior, Phillips said -- perhaps because "we do not have a label for lying."
The prosecution will wrap up its cross examination of Agharkar 9:30 a.m. Tuesday and then the defense will have an opportunity to cross-examine Phillips before additional experts take the stand.
The process is expected to last several more days.
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