Wife of Man Accused of Carrying Out Brutal Attack in Virginia Asserts Fifth Amendment Right - NBC4 Washington

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Wife of Man Accused of Carrying Out Brutal Attack in Virginia Asserts Fifth Amendment Right

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Northern Virginia Bureau Chief Julie Carey reports on the defense beginning its case in the Andrew Schmuhl trial. (Published Thursday, June 2, 2016)

    What to Know

    • Andrew Schmuhl's wife asserted her Fifth Amendment right and declined to answer questions about her husband's medical condition.

    • The doctor who treated him at the Fort Belvoir pain clinic before his arrest said Schmuhl's pain affected his quality of life.

    • Prosecutors believe Schmuhl was duping doctors, lying about his physical condition to get powerful drugs.

    The attorney accused of carrying out a savage attack on a Virginia couple watched his wife take the witness stand in a Fairfax County courtroom Thursday.

    Andrew Schmuhl's defense team began putting together its case, hoping to convince jurors Schmuhl was so heavily medicated that he was impaired when he staged the November 2014 attack on Leo Fisher and his wife, Sue Duncan, in their McLean home. Fisher is a partner in an Arlington law firm that fired Schmuhl's wife, Alecia, two weeks prior to the attack.

    Andrew Schmuhl’s defense team was dealt a blow this week when the judge ruled they cannot use what's known as an involuntary intoxication defense to try to clear their client.

    But Thursday they turned to doctors -- and Alecia Schmuhl -- to turn the spotlight on the possible effects of the many medications Schmuhl was taking for back pain and other ailments.

    Police dashcam video showed he struggled to answer questions as police quizzed him about medications.

    His lawyers hoped to ask his wife about his medical condition, but once on the stand, she asserted her Fifth Amendment right and declined to answer questions. Defense attorneys say she was the mastermind behind the near fatal attack on Fisher and Duncan, bent on revenge after being fired.

    Alecia Schmuhl will be tried separately in the fall. She and her husband did not make eye contact in court Thursday.

    Jurors did hear about Andrew Schmuhl's medical issues from the doctor who treated him at the Fort Belvoir pain clinic before his arrest. Schmuhl, a former military lawyer, was taking more than a dozen prescription drugs to combat back pain and other ailments, including several powerful opioids.

    "He was spending most of his time in bed,” the doctor said. “He couldn't take part in the daily pleasures of life. His quality of life was pretty bad."

    But prosecutors believe Schmuhl was duping doctors, lying about his physical condition to get powerful drugs, and they offered a photo of Schmuhl helping re-roof a house two weeks before the attack as proof.

    Other doctors testified Schmuhl was in grave condition when he was taken to the emergency room just after his arrest. Dr. Bell Grima said she had to give him the opioid overdose drug Narcan to revive him when his heart rate slowed and he passed out.

    When jurors return Monday, they will see texts sent between the couple before the attack.