31/07/2004 12:52  - (SA)  

Star has 'blood on her hands'

Star's stalker took pills
Death threats haunt actress
Stalker faces nearly 20yrs
Stalker says sorry

Los Angeles - Hollywood star Catherine Zeta-Jones has driven her alleged stalker to attempt suicide, the suspect's lawyer claimed Friday, as a US judge ordered his client to undergo psychiatric tests.

The startling claim by the attorney of Dawnette Knight, accused of making death threats against the Oscar-winning actress, came as a judge suspended criminal proceedings against Knight pending an evaluation of her mental state.

"What's happened is that this case has turned into Hollywood against Dawnette Knight, and it's not a fair fight," Knight's lawyer Richard Herman told reporters after a hearing in Los Angeles.

"What's actually happened is that Catherine Zeta-Jones has driven Dawnette Knight to attempt suicide, and the real blood is on her hands," he said two days after Zeta-Jones testified against Knight.

Herman suggested that Zeta-Jones, the wife of Hollywood icon Michael Douglas, and the media had waged a campaign against the 32-year-old Knight, leading her to take an overdose of barbiturates in jail on Wednesday night.

'Mean-spirited and vicious'

"What we have seen instead of forgiveness is a campaign of vilification in the media which is both mean-spirited and vicious," Herman said.

Prosecutor Debra Archuleta slammed Herman's claim as "inappropriate" and said she was "shocked and outraged that the victim in this case, Catherine Zeta-Jones, is being portrayed in this manner".

Knight, who was arrested in June, has pleaded not guilty to charges that she bombarded the British-born actress with a barrage of threatening letters and phone calls.

Knight sent the actress a letter apologising for the "distress" and asking for forgiveness, her lawyer said.

Zeta-Jones told the court in a hearing on Wednesday that she was menaced with being sliced up like "meat on a bone" and fed to dogs.

The threats "affected me and ... will affect me for the rest of my life," she said.

At Friday's hearing, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Patricia Schnegg suspended the case against Knight after Herman said there was doubt about his client's ability to assist in her own defence following the overdose.

A day earlier, Herman had told the judge that Knight had taken just two sleeping pills and told reporters she was a "normal young woman" who had "no mental problems".


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