© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Robert Durst in his wheelchair appears to be like at individuals within the courtroom as he seems in an Inglewood courtroom together with his attorneys for closing arguments in his homicide trial on the Inglewood Courthouse in California, U.S., September 8, 2021. Al Sieb/Po
By Daniel Trotta
(Reuters) – A California jury on Friday discovered multimillionaire actual property inheritor Robert Durst responsible of murdering his finest good friend Susan Berman in 2000, the primary murder conviction for a person suspected of killing three individuals in three states over the previous 39 years.
Durst, 78, will possible die in jail because the jury additionally discovered him responsible of the particular circumstances of mendacity in wait and killing a witness, which carry a compulsory life sentence. Superior Courtroom Choose Mark Windham, who oversaw the trial, set a sentencing listening to for Oct. 18.
The nine-woman, three-man jury had deliberated for seven and a half hours over three days. Durst, who has been in jail throughout the trial, was not current for the studying of the decision as a result of he was in isolation after having been uncovered to any individual with COVID-19.
Windham determined to have the decision learn in Durst’s absence.
Los Angeles County prosecutors referred to as Durst a “narcissistic psychopath” who killed Berman in an try and cowl up the disappearance of his spouse, Kathleen McCormack Durst, in New York in 1982.
Durst was solely on trial for killing Berman in California, however prosecutors argued he murdered three individuals: his lacking spouse, Berman and a neighbor in Texas who found his identification at a time when Durst was hiding from the regulation.
Regardless of lengthy being a suspect within the disappearance of his spouse, a 29-year-old medical scholar, Durst was by no means charged. Prosecutors stated he killed her then determined to kill Berman 18 years later as a result of she had informed others that she helped Durst cowl up the crime. Berman, 55, was shot at the back of her head inside her Beverly Hills house.
Protection attorneys in flip portrayed Durst, a frail most cancers survivor who makes use of a wheelchair, as a “sick previous man.” However he withstood 15 days as a witness, 9 of them below cross examination.
The trial got here six years after Durst’s obvious confession within the HBO tv documentary sequence “The Jinx,” wherein Durst was caught on a scorching microphone within the toilet saying to himself, “What the hell did I do? … Killed all of them, in fact.”
In 58 days unfold over a 12 months and a half, together with a one-year suspension after the trial started because of the coronavirus pandemic, prosecutors introduced mountains of circumstantial proof pointing towards Durst, who testified that he found Berman’s murdered physique when he went to go to her however didn’t name police.
The prosecution additionally delved into the 2001 dying and dismemberment of Morris Black, who was Durst’s neighbor in Galveston, Texas. A Galveston jury acquitted Durst of homicide, despite the fact that Durst admitted he chopped up Black’s physique and dumped it in Galveston Bay.
In Texas, and once more within the Los Angeles trial, Durst testified that Black pulled a gun on him and was shot by chance when the 2 males wrestled over the firearm in Durst’s condominium.
The California prosecutors argued that Durst murdered Black as a result of Black found Durst’s identification, and Durst feared Black would flip him in. On the time Durst was utilizing an assumed title and disguising himself as a mute lady as a result of he feared he is likely to be arrested by New York investigators who had reopened the case of his lacking spouse.
Black’s dying marked the second time Durst had a useless physique at his ft, in response to his personal testimony.
Within the deaths of each Black and Berman, Durst stated he at first tried to name the 911 emergency quantity however later determined in opposition to it, fearing no person would consider he was not responsible.
Durst testified from a wheelchair, often in a jail uniform but in addition carrying a dishevelled swimsuit jacket that might have match correctly in his youthful, extra strong days. His voice weakened by esophageal most cancers, he sounded totally different from the person with a assured New York accent that jurors noticed in “The Jinx.”
In addition to “The Jinx” audio, two different items of proof appeared to break Durst’s protection. One was the recorded 2017 testimony of Nick Chavin, a mutual good friend who stated Durst admitted to him in 2014 that he had killed Berman.
“I needed to. It was her or me. I had no alternative,” Chavin recounted Durst telling him one evening after dinner at a New York Metropolis restaurant.
Durst additionally admitted he authored a handwritten letter to Beverly Hills police with the phrase “cadaver” and Berman’s handle, directing them to her undiscovered physique. Durst had denied writing the observe for 20 years however relented earlier than testimony started, confronted with proof the observe was his.
Durst is the grandson of Joseph Durst and son of Seymour Durst, who constructed The Durst Group into certainly one of New York Metropolis’s premier actual property corporations which has developed a few of Manhattan’s signature skyscrapers.
Robert Durst way back left the corporate, now run by his estranged brother Douglas Durst, who testified at trial and stated of his sibling: “He’d wish to homicide me.”