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Claus von Bulow, of ‘Reversal of Fortune’ Notoriety, Dies at 92

Claus von Bulow, the socialite whose conviction and then sensational acquittal of the attempted murder of his wealthy wife was portrayed in the award-winning film “Reversal of Fortune,” has died. He was 92.

The Danish-born von Bulow died Saturday at his home in London, news reports said.

Von Bulow was found guilty in 1982 of trying to kill his wife, Martha (also known as Sunny), by injecting her with insulin. The heiress to a utilities fortune, Martha was discovered unconscious in the couple’s lavish home in Newport, R.I., in 1980, and fell into an irreversible coma. Prosecutors said von Bulow wanted his wife out of the way so that he could be with his mistress, soap opera actress Alexandra Isles.

Von Bulow was freed on $1 million bail, and a successful appeal by his defense attorney, renowned constitutional lawyer Alan Dershowitz, triggered a second, sensational trial that resulted in von Bulow’s acquittal in 1985. Dershowitz wrote a book about the case, “Reversal of Fortune,” which was turned into a 1990 movie of the same title, directed by Barbet Schroeder.

Jeremy Irons won the Oscar for best actor for his portrayal of von Bulow. Schroeder was nominated in the best director category, as was Nicholas Kazan for best adapted screenplay. Glenn Close played Sunny, and Ron Silver took the role of Dershowitz.

Sunny never emerged from her coma, and died in 2008.

Von Bulow was sued by his stepchildren, who continued to maintain that he had murdered their mother, for $57 million. The 1987 settlement included the von Bulows’ divorce.

Von Bulow was born in Copenhagen, then moved to Britain as a teenager during the Nazi occupation of Denmark. He was educated at Cambridge, and worked as an assistant to oil tycoon J. Paul Getty. After his marriage and the subsequent trials, he moved back to England.

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