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Susan Polk (born Susan Mae Bolling in 1957) is an American woman convicted in June 2006 of second degree murder in connection with the 2002 death of her husband, Dr. Frank "Felix" Polk.[1][2] Polk's trial, described by one Associated Press correspondent as "circus-like", drew extensive media attention with its sensationalist elements.[3][4]

Contents

Background

Polk met Dr. Polk, a psychotherapist, in 1972 when administrators at her high school recommended she see him to treat her panic attacks.[3][5] Polk later claimed that Dr. Polk first had sex with her when she was 16 and still under his treatment, a taboo relationship between therapist and patient that is now illegal in California.[5][6] At the time, Dr. Polk had a wife and two children,[5] though that couple subsequently divorced in 1982.[6]

After graduating high school, Polk attended Mills College and San Francisco State University before, in 1982, marrying Dr. Polk, who was then an instructor at the California Graduate School of Family Psychology, and an occasional consultant as well as a private practitioner.[6] At the time of their wedding, Polk was 24 and her husband 50.[7] During their marriage, the couple had three sons.[8] In 2001, Polk filed for divorce, a complicated and contentious proceeding during which each contacted police with allegations of domestic violence.[9][1][6] In 2002, the courts granted Dr. Polk custody of the couple's minor son, Gabriel Polk, granted the family home to Dr. Polk and reduced Polk's alimony.[10] Police records indicate that Dr. Polk reported threats from his wife.[5][10]

On Wednesday, October 9, Polk went to the home to retrieve her belongings and complete her dental procedure by having a permanent crown put on her tooth. That Friday, October 11, the eldest son, Adam, came home from UCLA to pick up his dog. The following day, Sunday, October 13, Dr. Polk, Adam, and the youngest son Gabriel drove Adam and the dog back to UCLA. Dr. Polk and Gabriel returned home at around 9:30 pm. Dr. Polk, then 70, was found dead the next day, Monday, October 14, 2002.[10] Dr. Polk had 27 wounds on his body, including 15 stab wounds and evidence of blunt force trauma.[10] Polk, too, was cut and scratched and had "red discoloration around her eyes, bite marks on the hand and a red welt on her shoulder".[10][9]

The trial

At trial, prosecutors contended that Polk planned the murder of her multimillionaire husband for money and sought a conviction of murder in the first degree.[3] Polk, who had first denied knowledge of or involvement in Dr. Polk's death, claimed self-defense, asserting that, after years of having beaten and sexually abused her, Dr. Polk brandished a kitchen knife against her.[6][3] She indicated that she had taken control of the weapon and stabbed him instead.[5] A forensic pathologist, John Cooper, testified as an expert witness for the defense that Dr. Polk's death was caused by heart disease rather than stab wounds, which he stated were not life-threatening, and that the nature of his wounds were evidence that Polk delivered them in self defense.[11][12] When Cooper was to appear in court the following day to both present documents he claimed to have received from Polk which were requested by the judge and continue to be cross examined by the prosecution, he failed to appear, instead sending a written explanation to the judge.[12] He returned with the letters a week later to resume testimony.[13] Prosecuting attorneys dismissed Polk's claim, arguing that she had no defensive wounds from her husband's alleged attack.[3]

Polk, whose first trial ended in a mistrial when the wife of her then-counsel, Daniel Horowitz, was murdered in an unrelated incident, fired her attorneys to represent herself.[10][9] She supported her defense with allegations of a history of marital and professional misconduct, including claims that Dr. Polk had drugged and raped her when she was a teenager, brainwashed the couple's children and threatened to kill her if she tried to leave.[9] She also claimed to be a psychic with foreknowledge of the September 11, 2001 attacks that could have been used to thwart the attacks if "her husband hadn't prevented her from alerting authorities", asserting that her husband was an Israeli spy who was passing her psychic prediction to Mossad.[3][8] Polk repeatedly requested a second mistrial, lodging accusations of conspiracy against the prosecutor and judge.[10] During her closing statements, Polk, who had refused to pursue a line of defense based on mental illness, questioned whether public perception that she was delusional was coloring opinions of her guilt.[3][8]

Each of Polk's children testified at the trial. Polk's youngest son, who had found the body, testified that his mother had speculated means of killing her husband in the weeks before Dr. Polk's death.[5] The oldest son, Adam Polk, also testified against his mother, receiving widespread media coverage when he referred to her on the stand as "cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs".[14] The couple's middle son, Eli Polk, testified on Polk's behalf that Dr. Polk was the unstable parent.[9]

Jurors disagreed that the crime was premeditated, but did find Polk guilty of second degree murder in relation to her husband's death.[3] Sentenced to prison for a term of 16 years to life, Polk's conviction is on appeal.[10] She will be eligible for parole in 2017.[7]

Further reading

References

  1. ^ a b McKinley, Jesse. (June 17, 2006) Conviction concludes bizarre trial for murder. The New York Times. Retrieved 30-01-08.
  2. ^ CBS 5, San Francisco. (June 16, 2006) Jurors find Susan Polk guilty Of 2nd Degree Murder cbs5.com. Retrieved 30-01-08.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h AP. (June 16, 2006) Woman guilty of slaying husband-shrink CBS News. Retrieved 30-01-08.
  4. ^ Lee, Henry K. (February 23, 2007). Murderer Susan Polk loses bid for new trial. San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 31-01-08.
  5. ^ a b c d e f Pogash, Carol. (September 18, 2005) A California murder case raises troubling issues The New York Times. Retrieved 30-01-08.
  6. ^ a b c d e Pogash, Carol. (June 15, 2003) No ordinary murder. Originally published in Los Angeles Times Sunday Magazine. Hosted at pogash.com. Retrieved 31-01-08.
  7. ^ a b Sweetingham, Lisa. (February 23, 2007) Susan Polk, defiant at sentencing, gets maximum term for fatally stabbing her husband Court TV. Retrieved 31-01-08.
  8. ^ a b c Tatko-Peterson, Ann. (March 9, 2007) New Crier book dissects Polk murder case. Oakland Tribune. Hosted at bnet.com. Retrieved 31-01-08.
  9. ^ a b c d e Sweetingham, Lisa. (June 16, 2006) Polk guilty of killing therapist husband. CNN. Retrieved 31-01-08.
  10. ^ a b c d e f g h Morrison, Keith. (May 19, 2007) A murder trial that grew more bizarre with every turn Dateline NBC transcript. Hosted by msnbc.com. Retrieved 30-01-08.
  11. ^ Dearen, Jason. (May 5, 2006) Expert witness: Polk not guilty "Oakland Tribune". Retrieved 18/03/08.
  12. ^ a b Court TV News. Dr. John Cooper's letter to the judge courttv.com. Retrieved 18/03/08.
  13. ^ Dearen, Jeff. (May 16, 2006) Missing pathologist returns Oakland Tribune. Retrieved 17/05/08.
  14. ^ Associated Press. (June 16, 2006). Jury finds Polk guilty of 2nd-degree murder. MSNBC. Retrieved 31-01-08.







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