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Defense says du Pont fell 'into the abyss of insanity'


Prosecutor: he knew what he was doing

January 27, 1997
Web posted at: 9:00 p.m. EST

MEDIA, Pennsylvania (CNN) -- Chemical heir John E. du Pont fatally shot Olympic wrestler David Schultz because he had fallen "into the abyss of insanity," or because he was motivated by fear, anger and envy.

That was the choice offered jurors Monday during opening arguments of the Pennsylvania millionaire's murder trial.

Speaking first, defense attorney Thomas Bergstrom said his client suffered from paranoid schizophrenia and did not know right from wrong for three years before the shooting Schultz on January 26, 1996.

"What happened that day is simply not in dispute," Bergstrom said. "John du Pont shot David Schultz, backed his car out of the driveway and went home."


"This case is about a killing, for no reason whatsoever, at the hands of a man with a mental disease that took away his ability to know what he did was wrong," Bergstrom said.

Bergstrom said that on the day of the shooting, "John du Pont drove his car out of the front gates of his estate and into the abyss of insanity."

Du Pont is on trial for killing the 38-year-old Schultz as the Olympian tried to fix his car radio in the driveway of a home where he, his wife and their two children lived on du Pont's Newtown Square estate. Schultz, who won a gold medal in the 1984 Olympics, had been training for the 1996 Olympics at du Pont's Foxcatcher training center.

Prosecutor: du Pont envious of athlete

Prosecutor Joseph McGettigan argued that the 58-year-old du Pont knew exactly what he was doing, and was fearful, angry and envious of Schultz.

McGettigan said that du Pont was so cogent that during the two-day standoff with police that followed the shooting, he hid the murder weapon on a high shelf in his mansion.


Du Pont arrived at court in a wheelchair, the result of a knee injury sustained Friday while at the psychiatric hospital where he is being held.

As of four months ago, court records showed that du Pont, with a net worth of nearly $250 million, had already spent $3 million on his defense.

Shortly before that, du Pont fired two lawyers at the top of his defense team. They testified later at a competency hearing that du Pont was too unbalanced to aid in his defense.

Du Pont then underwent two months of therapy, and was deemed fit to stand trail by Judge Patricia Jenkins of the Delaware County Common Pleas Court.

The six men and six women on the jury have an average age of 50. They include a legal secretary, a railroad conductor, an unemployed Army reservist and a retired waitress whose brother suffers from schizophrenia.


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