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Polk guilty of killing therapist husband

Woman acted as her own attorney during four-month trial

By Lisa Sweetingham
CourtTV

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Susan Polk acted as her own lawyer during the trial.

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MARTINEZ, California (CourtTV) -- A jury found California housewife Susan Polk guilty of second-degree murder Friday in the stabbing death of her wealthy psychologist husband.

Polk showed no emotion as jurors returned the verdict shortly before noon Pacific Time after deliberating for four days. Sons Gabriel and Adam, who testified against her, also showed no emotion when the verdict was announced.

It was a surprisingly decorous end to a circus-like, 14-week trial in which the defendant acted as her own lawyer.

Polk, 48, faces 16 years to life in prison. In California, a conviction of second-degree murder means jurors found the killing was intentional but not premeditated.

She was 14 when she met Felix Polk, who was her therapist. She was 24 when she married him.

During the trial, jurors heard bizarre testimony from the defendant about psychics, secret agents and the daily physical abuse Polk claimed to have endured during a relationship that spanned three decades. (Full coverageexternal link)

Polk was arrested in October 2002 after her 70-year-old husband was found stabbed to death on the floor of a poolside cottage on the couple's $1.85 million property in Orinda, California.

Polk initially denied knowledge of her husband's death, but later claimed she stabbed him in self-defense after he attacked her with a paring knife.

Self defense, plus heart attack

Polk, who represented herself at trial, claimed her husband died from a heart attack during the altercation, and not from multiple stab wounds.

Prosecutors alleged Polk killed her husband at the end of a contentious divorce when she realized she was on the losing side. Felix Polk called police and friends in the days before his death saying he feared his wife would harm him.

The couple raised three sons, two of whom testified against their mother at her trial. Adam Polk, 23 called his mother "bonkers," "cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs" and "the embodiment of evil" on the witness stand.

Gabriel Polk, 19, testified that before his father's death, his mother talked about drugging Felix and throwing him in the pool, hitting him with her car, or shooting him.

Both sons say Polk is delusional.

She in turn claimed her sons were brainwashed by her husband and conspired to loot the family estate.

She found support during trial from her middle son Eli, 21, who told jurors that his father was the unstable parent.

Eli is serving a nine-month sentence for misdemeanor battery and violating the restraining order of a former girlfriend.

Nine days on stand

Susan Polk spent nine days on the stand, claiming Felix drugged and raped her as a teen, poisoned the family dogs, brainwashed their sons, and plotted the 1978 assassination of San Francisco Mayor George Moscone.

She called a psychic detective to the stand in an attempt to lend credibility to her claim to be a medium. She said her husband was a secret Israeli intelligence agent who hypnotized her into trances to glean her predictions and feed them to the Mossad.

Her husband threatened to kill her, their children and their pets, Susan Polk said, if she ever left him or divulged what she knew about him.

She told jurors she refused to undergo a psychological evaluation and denied suffering from delusions.

An expert on domestic violence testified that Polk appeared to be suffering from posttraumatic stress disorder due to her husband's abuse, but that she was not delusional.

Felix Polk's autopsy noted 27 stab and incise wounds and blunt force trauma to the head.

Dueling experts

Battling medical experts testified that Felix died from heart failure due to blocked arteries, and alternately that his weakened heart was simply a contributing factor in his death.

Susan Polk's relatively minor injuries -- red discoloration around her eyes, bite marks on the hand and a red welt on her shoulder -- did not help her case.

She was granted the right to represent herself at trial after firing five attorneys. Her first trial, in October, ended in a mistrial during its first week when defense attorney Daniel Horowitz came home to find his own wife had been murdered.

Polk faced serious challenges as an in-custody defendant acting as her own attorney. But she made forceful objections in court, pored over case law and never backed down from an argument.

The thin, gray-haired defendant with the meek voice and acid tongue was often her own worst enemy at trial.

If she were truly an attorney, the judge admonished Polk several times, she would have suffered severe sanctions for her constant disregard for the court's rulings and her daily allegations of misconduct and bias lobbed at the judge, the prosecutor, the deputies, the clerk, even the court reporter.

Polk told jurors the judge had instructed the court reporter to falsify the record. She called the prosecutor an "immoral creep," a "lying, deceitful" man," and a "P.E. major."

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