Prosecutor: jurors conclude that Durst’s heir “killed them all”
INGLEWOOD, Calif .– Robert Durst’s long, bizarre and deadly flight from the law came to an end when a Los Angeles County jury found him guilty of murdering his best friend over 20 years ago.
The 78-year-old New York real estate heir, long suspected but never charged in his wife’s disappearance in New York in 1982 and acquitted of the murder of a neighbor in Texas in 2001, was convicted on Friday of the murder in the first Susan Berman’s degree.
“Bob Durst has been around for many years and he may have committed many horrific crimes,” Assistant District Attorney John Lewin said outside the Inglewood courthouse. “Considering what he did, he got a lot more life than he was entitled to.”
Durst, who is ill and frail and remained seated throughout the trial in a wheelchair, was not present when the verdict was read. He was in solitary confinement in prison because he was exposed to someone with coronavirus, a strange twist on the final day of the jury.
The global pandemic has dramatically altered the course of the trial, suspending it in March 2020 after only two days of testimony. After a 14-month hiatus, perhaps the longest in the U.S. justice system, the case resumed in May for four more months of testimony.
Durst faces a life sentence without parole when he was sentenced on October 18.
The jury found that Durst ambushed Berman and killed her because she witnessed a crime, which prosecutors said was the alleged murder of Kathie Durst, which was never found. Berman was shot at close range in the back of the head in his Los Angeles home in December 2000.
Berman, the daughter of a Las Vegas gangster, was Durst’s longtime confidante who, at the time of his death, was ready to tell the police that she had provided him with a false alibi after his wife went missing .
“He killed his wife and then he had to keep killing to cover him up,” Lewin said.
Lewin, who met with jurors after the verdict, said they believe prosecutors have proven Durst killed Kathie Durst and murdered Berman and Black.
The defense said it believed there was “substantial reasonable doubt” and was disappointed with the verdict, lawyer David Chesnoff said. He said Durst would pursue all remedies.
In many ways, Durst was only responsible for himself for an investigation that took a new lease of life after rejecting advice from lawyers and everyone he knew to participate in an incriminating documentary about his apparent bad luck. to see people close to him disappear or get knocked down.
Durst was arrested in 2015 while hiding in a New Orleans hotel on the eve of the airing of the final episode of “The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst”, in which he was confronted with incriminating evidence and made what prosecutors said was an admission.
Durst could be heard muttering to himself over a live microphone in a bathroom, “This is it. You are taken.
Lewin credited filmmakers Andrew Jarecki and Marc Smerling with moving the case forward.
“Without them, we wouldn’t have conducted the interviews, we wouldn’t be where we are,” Lewin said. “That was the starting point, without a doubt.”
The verdict does “some justice” to Kathie Durst’s family, Jarecki said in a statement, “as Kathie’s murder is now likely to be prosecuted.”
Durst’s decision to testify in his own defense – hoping for a repeat of his acquittal in the Texas murder – backfired as he was forced to admit to lying under oath, made a damning confession and credibility was destroyed when questioned for nine days by Lewin.
“To my knowledge, there has never been an accused who perjured himself, so maybe about so many different things in such a short time,” Lewin said. “It was absolutely shocking.”
The story of Durst, the estranged offspring of a New York real estate developer, has fueled the New York tabloids since his wife’s disappearance. It provided so many twists and turns that Hollywood couldn’t resist making a feature film about his life that ultimately led to the documentary and new evidence of Berman’s murder uncovered.
Durst has fled the law on several occasions, disguised as a mute woman in Texas and staying under a pseudonym in a New Orleans hotel with a latex mask from her shoulders to her head for an alleged getaway. He jumped on bail in Texas and was arrested after stealing a chicken sandwich in Pennsylvania when he had $ 37,000 in cash – along with two handguns – in his rental car.
He later joked that he was “the worst fugitive the world has ever met”.
Durst escaped scrutiny by investigators when his wife went missing. But his problems resurfaced in late 2000 when New York authorities reopened the case and his lawyer told him to be prepared to be charged in the case.
He escaped a life of luxury in Galveston, Texas, where he rented a cheap apartment as “Dorothy Ciner,” a woman he claimed could not speak. He eventually ditched the disguise after misadventures, including setting his wig on fire in a bar while lighting a cigarette.
Just before Christmas, he traveled to Los Angeles to visit Berman for a “vacation” with the intention of visiting some of the sights, Durst said. He found Berman dead on the floor of a bedroom when he arrived.
Berman, a writer who had been friends with Durst since they were students at the University of California, Los Angeles, was in serious financial trouble at the time. Durst had given her $ 50,000 and prosecutors suggested she was trying to get more money from him by telling him she was going to talk to the cops.
Nine months after his death, Durst killed Black. Durst said he came home to find a friend Black in his apartment holding Durst’s .22 caliber pistol.
Durst was acquitted after testifying that the 71-year-old was killed in a gun fight. Durst then cut up Black’s body and threw it into the sea. He was convicted of destroying evidence for throwing out the body parts.
After the trial and the appalling evidence of dismemberment, Durst said he had become an outcast. Despite an estimated fortune of $ 100 million, he was turned away by several condominium associations and said the Los Angeles County Museum of Art would not take his money unless he made an anonymous donation.
Durst believed that a 2010 feature film Jarecki made based on his life, “All the Good Things”, starring Ryan Gosling as him and Kirsten Dunst as Kathie, had been in the spotlight. part exact and had painted a likeable portrait, although he implicated it in three murders. He only objected that he was pictured killing his dog – something he would never do.
He contacted the filmmaker and agreed to sit down for lengthy interviews for a documentary. He encourages his friends to do the same and gives filmmakers access to the boxes of his records.
He came to deeply regret his decision after “The Jinx” aired on HBO in 2015, calling it a “very, very, very big mistake.”
Documentary filmmakers uncovered crucial evidence that linked it to an anonymous note sent to police directing them to Berman’s lifeless body.
Durst, who was so confident he couldn’t be logged into the note, told the filmmakers that “only the killer could have written” the note.
When the filmmakers confronted him with a letter he sent to Berman a year earlier – with identical handwriting and Beverly Hills misspelled as “Beverley” on both – he couldn’t tell them apart.
The hangover moment provided the climax of the film as Durst stepped out of the camera and muttered into a live microphone in the bathroom, “Killed them all, of course.”
During 14 days of such punitive testimony, Judge Mark Windham called it “devastating,” Durst denied killing his wife and Berman, although he said he would lie if he did.
He was forced to admit for the first time that he wrote the note and that he was in Los Angeles at the time of Berman’s death.
Lewin said jurors told him they didn’t believe Durst’s explanations for the apparent note or confession for a while without being watched.
Durst claimed the hot mic hadn’t caught his full thought, which he said: “They’ll all think I killed them all, of course.”
That’s exactly what the jury found, Lewin said.