Gu Kailai is accused of poisoning Heywood last November, NPR
Heywood's body was found at a hotel in Chongqing, China's largest city, in November 2011, BBC News
reports. At the time, Mr. Heywood's death was ruled a heart attack.
According to Reuters
, many Chinese see this case as a way to ruin Gu Kalai's husband, Bo Xilai, the former Communist party head in Chongqing.
This past February, Chongqing police chief Wang Lijun went to a US Consulate and implicated Bo's wife in Heywood's murder, NPR
This gave Bo's opponents the ammunition they needed to get him out of the way. He was ousted in March, and remains under investigation by the Communist party's internal discipline and inspection commission, which is expected to issue a statement on what exactly he's accused of. Charges against Bo may include "obstructing police" and "abuse of power," The Guardian
reports, but nothing has been made official.
Chinese media says the case against Gu and an aide is "substantial," BBC News
Jerome Cohen, a law professor at New York University who has followed China's legal system for decades, has a different point of view, however. He maintains there is no way of knowing whether Gu was involved in Heywood's murder.
"They haven't shown any evidence. The government has made allegations," he told NPR
According to Reuters,
Gu was not permitted to decide who would represent her. That decision was instead made by the state increasing doubts she can receive a fair trial.
Gu's 90 year old mother Fan Xiucheng, recently complained to the Justice Ministry.
The ministry responded to Fan saying "the legal process did not have to be fully carried out in this case" and that she should stop "pestering" them, Reuters
Even the British have requested that Gu's case is handled fairly so the truth about Heywood's death comes out, but those pleas have been ignored.
Despite fears that Gu's trial will be driven by politics, Dr Bo Zhiyue of the National University of Singapore says the case's focus will be criminal and not political, BBC News
Dr Bo says Bo Xilai is a "controversial figure," and while there may some division within the central leadership on how to handle him, he believes there is a consensus over how to handle his wife, Gu Kailai, in this trial.
Gu, 53, a prominent attorney will be tired in the city of Hefei, BBC News
British diplomats will be allowed to witness the trial, but journalists will not be permitted in the court room.
Gu will be represented by two lawyers, Jiang Min and Zhou Yuhao, Reuters
reports. Jiang specializes in finance law. Little is known about Zhou, but the two seem to have no connection to the Bo family.
According to Jerome Cohen, Chinese trials are very different from trials in the US. For instance, judges can decide cases based on the instructions of political leaders, NPR
Ironically, years ago, Gu wrote the Chinese legal system was actually better and more efficient than the American one.
Gu and her husband have not been seen in public since April, BBC News
Their son, Bo Guagua, 24, is believed to have been living in the US since graduating from Harvard University.
On Tuesday, Bo Guagua told CNN
he has submitted a witness statement to the defense team on his mother's behalf.
"I have faith the facts will speak for themselves," Bo Guagua said of his mother's trial.
According to Chinese State Media, Neil Heywood, a business associate of the Bo family, is believed to have had a falling out with Gu and her son over "economic interests," BBC News
reports, and Gu was worried about "Neil Heywood's threat to her son's personal security."
At this time, it is unclear if Gu's mother or any of Mr. Heywood's family will be allowed to attend the trial, Reuters
reports. It is also unclear whether or not Gu's husband, Bo Xilai, or police chief Wang Lijun will be in attendance.
Gu and her aide, Zhang Xiaojun, are expected to be found guilty of intentional homicide, The Guardian
reports. If found guilty, the two face anywhere from 10 years to life in prison or the death penalty.