Judge should sentence real estate heir Robert Durst to life for murder in California


Oct. 14 (Reuters) – A California judge is expected to sentence multimillion-dollar real estate heir Robert Durst, who was convicted last month of murdering his best friend Susan Berman in 2000, to life imprisonment.

Durst, 78, in poor health, had spent much of the past four decades evading the law, since his wife Kathleen McCormack Durst disappeared in New York in 1982.

Los Angeles County prosecutors alleged he killed Berman because she helped provide Durst with a false alibi in 1982 and he feared she would reveal it to authorities.

A Los Angeles County jury found him guilty of shooting Berman, 55, in the back of the head in his Beverly Hills home. The jury also found him guilty of the special circumstances of waiting and murdering a witness, which results in a mandatory life sentence without the possibility of parole.

Superior Court Judge Mark Windham, who presided over the trial, will hand down the sentence from the bench.

The trial took place six years after Durst’s apparent confession aired in the HBO television documentary series “The Jinx,” in which Durst was caught live by a microphone in the bathroom thinking, “Qu did I do? … Killed all of them, of course. “

Senior prosecutor John Lewin, who had sued Durst for years, credited “The Jinx” filmmakers Andrew Jarecki and Marc Smerling for their eye-opening interviews, which helped litigate against Durst.

Durst was only on trial for Berman’s murder in California, but prosecutors argued he murdered three people: his missing wife, Berman and a neighbor in Texas who discovered his identity when Durst was in hiding from the law.

Although he has long been a suspect in the disappearance of his wife, a 29-year-old medical student, Durst has never been charged.

The McCormack family urged prosecutors in Westchester County, New York, to prosecute Durst for his murder.

Westchester County District Attorney Mimi Rocah reopened the case in May, shortly after taking office.

Durst, a cancer survivor who uses a wheelchair, testified for 15 days during the trial, nine of which were under cross-examination. He claimed to have discovered Berman’s body when he went to visit him but did not call the police.

The prosecution also looked into the 2001 death and dismemberment of Morris Black, who was Durst’s neighbor in Galveston, Texas. A Galveston jury acquitted Durst of the murder, although Durst admitted he cut up Black’s body and dumped it in Galveston Bay.

Durst said Black fired a gun at him and was accidentally shot when the two fought over the gun.

With Black, as with Berman, Durst testified that he first tried calling the 911 emergency number, but then decided not to, fearing that no one would believe he did. was not guilty.

Durst is the grandson of the founder of The Durst Organization, one of New York’s leading real estate companies. He long ago left the company, which developed some of Manhattan’s iconic skyscrapers.

Reporting by Daniel Trotta; edited by Jonathan Oatis

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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