Du Pont heir's appeal denied in 1996 killing

Posted: November 20, 2010

John E. du Pont, an heir to the chemical company fortune, has lost his appeal to be found "sick rather than bad" in the slaying of an Olympic wrestler at his Delaware County estate in January 1996.

Du Pont, 71, shot and killed Dave Schultz as the wrestler's wife and the estate's head of security looked on. The motive is still unclear. Schultz, an Olympic gold medal winner, had been living at the Newtown Square estate, which du Pont had turned into a wrestling camp.

In 1997, jurors had two choices: to find du Pont not guilty by reason of insanity or find him mentally ill but guilty of third-degree murder.

The judge instructed that a defendant who is "sick rather than bad" is legally insane; a defendant who is "both sick and bad" is guilty but mentally ill.

The jury decided du Pont was "both sick and bad." The judge sentenced him to up to 30 years.

Du Pont's appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit claimed his attorney had not investigated the possibility that a motion-sickness drug he had been taking could have exacerbated his mental illness rather than cocaine, as the prosecution had argued. If the jury had been swayed, du Pont argued, he might have been found "sick rather than bad."

The Third Circuit, however, found Thursday that the argument was without merit. Under Pennsylvania law, "even such proof of 'intoxication' would have been unavailing in du Pont's case, as he was charged with murder," the court said.

Contact staff writer Sam Wood

at 215-854-2796 or samwood@phillynews.com.

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