Real estate heir Robert Durst convicted of murder in California By Reuters

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Robert Durst seems at jurors as he seems in an Inglewood courtroom together with his attorneys for closing arguments within the his homicide trial on the Inglewood Courthouse in California, U.S., September 8, 2021. Al Sieb/Pool through REUTERS

By Daniel Trotta

(Reuters) – A California jury on Friday discovered multimillionaire actual property inheritor Robert Durst responsible of murdering his greatest buddy Susan Berman in 2000, the primary murder conviction for a person suspected of killing three folks in three states over the previous 39 years.

Durst, 78, faces as much as life in jail. Superior Court docket Decide Mark Windham, who oversaw the trial, will set a date for sentencing.

The nine-woman, three-man jury had deliberating for seven and a half hours over three days.

Los Angeles County prosecutors referred to as Durst a “narcissistic psychopath” who killed Berman in an try to 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 folks: 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 pupil, 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.

Protection attorneys in flip portrayed Durst, a frail most cancers survivor who makes use of a wheelchair, as a “sick previous man,” referencing Durst’s declare he’s on the autism spectrum. They famous prosecutors, who questioned him for 9 days of cross examination, had been unable to provide forensic proof linking Durst to the homicide of Berman, 55, who was shot at the back of her head inside her Beverly Hills dwelling.

The trial got here six years after Durst’s obvious confession within the HBO tv documentary collection “The Jinx,” during which Durst was caught on a sizzling 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 half, together with a one-year suspension after the trial started as a result of coronavirus pandemic, prosecutors offered 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 loss of life and dismemberment of Morris Black, who was Durst’s neighbor in Galveston, Texas. A Galveston jury acquitted Durst of homicide, though 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 unintentionally when the 2 males wrestled over the firearm in Durst’s residence.

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 identify and disguising himself as a mute girl as a result of he feared he could be arrested by New York investigators who had reopened the case of his lacking spouse.

Black’s loss of life marked the second time Durst had a useless physique at his ft, based on 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 towards it, fearing no person would imagine he was not responsible.

Durst testified from a wheelchair, often in a jail uniform but additionally carrying a dishevelled go well with jacket that might have match correctly in his youthful, extra strong days. His voice weakened by esophageal most cancers, he sounded completely different from the person with a assured New York accent that jurors noticed in “The Jinx.”

Arduous of listening to, he would typically learn a simultaneous transcription of the questions on a pill.

Lead protection lawyer Dick DeGuerin tried to solid doubt on the “killed all of them” audio by arguing it was edited and had been saved by the filmmakers for years earlier than it was turned over to the authorities. Durst stated the mic did not report him say “They will all suppose I” earlier than uttering “killed all of them.”

Moreover “The Jinx” audio, two different items of proof appeared to wreck Durst’s protection. One was the recorded 2017 testimony of Nick Chavin, a mutual buddy who stated Durst admitted to him in 2014 that he had killed Berman.

“I needed to. It was her or me. I had no selection,” 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 deal with, directing them to her undiscovered physique. Durst had denied writing the word for 20 years however relented earlier than testimony started, confronted with proof the word was his.

Durst is the grandson of Joseph Durst and son of Seymour Durst, who constructed The Durst Group into one in every of New York Metropolis’s premier actual property firms 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 prefer to homicide me.”

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