The woman convicted of killing her millionaire husband in one of Las Vegas’ most high-profile murder cases was granted a new trial today.
District Judge Sally Loehrer ruled that attorneys for Margaret Rudin, 65, weren’t prepared to defend her at her 2001 trial, according to several lawyers on both sides of the case. She also ruled that Rudin’s main attorney at the time, Michael Amador, wasn’t effective, said Christopher Oram, Rudin’s new attorney.
“Obviously we’re very happy with the judge’s ruling and look forward to going to trial,” Oram said.
Rudin, who has been behind bars for almost a decade, wasn’t at today’s hearing. Oram broke the news to Rudin by telephone and said she was very pleased with the judge’s decision.
Rudin’s 10-week trial was one of the longest criminal trials in Las Vegas’ history. She was dubbed the “Black Widow” by the media after she was accused of shooting her 64-year-old husband, Ron Rudin, in the head while he slept in 1994.
Her trial was telecast on Court TV and spawned a book titled “If I Die ...”
The book’s title is a reference to Ron Rudin’s will, in which he stated that he wanted extra steps taken to investigate his death if he died violently.
The jury convicted Rudin of murder with a deadly weapon in 2001. She was given a life sentence with the possibility of parole after 20 years.
Chief Deputy District Attorney Chris Owens, who prosecuted Rudin, wasn’t happy with the judge’s ruling.
“I think it’s a joke that the taxpayers will have to fund a new trial for someone who had three attorneys,” he said.
Rudin’s attorneys at the time were Amador, Tom Pitaro and John Momot.
Amador was her main attorney. Pitaro was brought in to help about three weeks before the trial began. Momot, who took the case for free, was appointed to assist about two weeks into the trial.
During today’s hearing, Pitaro and Momot testified that they weren’t ready to try the case because of the huge volume of material involved. There were more than 60 banker boxes full of material for the case.
Pitaro and Momot, who have practiced in Nevada for decades, are considered well-respected defense attorneys.
Momot said he would have needed at least six to nine months to prepare for the case properly.
Pitaro said he was initially brought in to Rudin’s case to question some expert witnesses. His role, he believed, would be small compared with Amador’s. He realized, however, that he was required to do a lot more once the trial started.
After Rudin’s 2001 trial, Pitaro stated in an affidavit that he was shocked by how little preparation Amador had done for the trial. He said expert witnesses hadn’t been retained and many witnesses hadn’t been interviewed.
Amador’s antics during and after the trial are well-documented. He was accused of leaking information about Rudin and giving family photos of Rudin to the National Enquirer. He was also accused of trying to write a book about the case during the trial.
He was also prone to odd behavior at the trial, such as a rambling opening statement in which he often referenced himself.
One juror even sent a letter to the court saying jurors thought he was an idiot.
“He was the laughingstock in the jury room,” wrote juror Coreen Kovacs in April 2005.
Amador declined to comment Friday, said an assistant at his office.
This wasn’t Rudin’s first attempt to get a new trial. In 2004, the Nevada Supreme Court ruled that her conviction was valid. Amador’s behavior came up then, too.
Ron Rudin, a real estate developer, was Margaret Rudin’s fifth husband. Authorities said she killed Ron Rudin to inherit his estate, which was worth $11 million. Rudin fled Las Vegas after she was suspected of killing her husband but was caught in 1999 in Massachusetts.
Rudin has always maintained her innocence.
Kovacs, the juror who served on Rudin’s case, said today that she had always believed that Rudin wasn’t guilty. She said she felt pressured into voting for the guilty verdict.
“I’m glad she got a new trial,” Kovacs said. “She deserves it.”
Contact reporter David Kihara at email@example.com or 702-380-1039.