HONG KONG — In a stunning reversal, Hong Kong's highest court has overturned the murder conviction of Nancy Kissel, the American expatriate accused of drugging and clubbing her banker husband to death in a case widely known as the "milkshake murder."
Hong Kong's Court of Final Appeal also ordered a retrial in its decision issued Thursday. The court, however, ordered Kissel, 45, kept in custody pending a bail application.
Kissel's lawyers argued during the appeal hearing that prosecutors broke the law by using evidence during the murder trial that drew from the American's initial bail hearing after she was charged.
The mother of two, who lost her first appeal, has been serving a life sentence since she was convicted in September 2005 of drugging her high-flying banker husband with a sedatives-laced strawberry milkshake before bludgeoning him to death in 2003.
The three-month trial featured a heady mix of adultery, violence, spying, greed and enormous wealth, gripping the former British colony and inspiring books and films.
Gruesome details emerged in the trial, including evidence that Kissel rolled up her husband Robert's body in a carpet and left it in the bedroom of their luxurious apartment for days before hiring workmen to carry it to a storeroom.
Prosecutors claimed the Michigan-born Kissel stood to gain up to $18 million in insurance payouts from the death of her husband, a senior investment banker at Merrill Lynch.
The prosecution also argued that Kissel, a mother-of-three, wanted to take her husband's money and run away with a TV repairman with whom she admitted having an affair in the United States.
Kissel admitted from the witness box that she killed her husband but claimed she was acting in self-defense after he attacked her with a baseball bat on the night of the murder.
She also painted herself as a loving but long-suffering wife who had been subjected to regular violent attacks by a husband who abused cocaine and alcohol.
Kissel's last appeal was dismissed by the Court of Appeal in 2008. In the latest appeal heard before the highest court in January this year, Kissel's defense team argued that prosecutors had adduced inadmissible evidence during the trial.
Robert Kissel's family suffered a further tragedy in 2006, when his brother Andrew was found murdered in his house in Connecticut, bound and with multiple stab wounds. He was reportedly about to plead guilty to bank fraud charges.
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