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


© Reuters. FILEPHOTO: Robert Durst watches the jurors in Inglewood as he and his lawyers prepare for closing arguments during his murder trial. The Inglewood Courthouse, California, U.S.A, September 8th, 2021. Al Sieb/Pool via REUTERS

By Daniel Trotta

(Reuters) – A California jury on Friday found multimillionaire real estate heir Robert Durst guilty of murdering his best friend Susan Berman in 2000, the first homicide conviction for a man suspected of killing three people in three states over the past 39 years.

Durst (78) could face life imprisonment. The trial was supervised by Mark Windham from the Superior Court. He will decide when sentencing should take place.

Three-man, nine-woman jury deliberated seven-and-a-half hours in three days. Durst has been held for the entirety of the trial and was not available for the final reading. This was because he had been isolated from COVID-19-infected persons.

Windham insisted on having the verdict read without Durst.

Los Angeles County prosecutors described Durst as a “narcissistic personality” who attempted to hide the 1982 disappearance in New York of Kathleen McCormack Durst.

Durst, who was on trial in California for the murder of Berman, was not charged with any other crimes. However, prosecutors claimed that Durst murdered his wife Berman, his Texas neighbor, and his own identity, at a time Durst wasn’t being prosecuted.

Durst wasn’t ever charged despite being suspected in his wife’s disappearance, Durst is a 29 year-old medical student. Prosecutors claimed that he murdered her and then killed Berman 18 years later, after she told others she was helping Durst to cover it up.

Durst was described by defense lawyers as an elderly man who has survived frailty from cancer. He also uses a wheelchair. This referenced Durst’s claims that he’s on the autism spectrum. The defense lawyers noted that Durst was not able to present forensic evidence linking him to Berman’s death. Berman, 55-years old, was killed when she was attacked in her Beverly Hills home.

Six years ago, Durst made an apparent confession to the murder of Berman in “The Jinx”, an HBO documentary. Durst was captured on a hot mic in the bathroom and said: “What the heck did I do?” The trial began… They all were killed, naturally.”

Durst testified that Berman was his victim when he came to see her. However, Durst did not contact police. The trial lasted 58 days.

Durst, Durst’s Galveston Texas neighbor, was dismembered and killed in 2001. Durst was found not guilty of the murder charge by a Galveston jury. Durst did admit that he dismembered Black’s body, and then dumped it into Galveston Bay.

Durst testified in Texas that Black pulled a gun against him, as well as in the Los Angeles trial. Durst also said that Black was injured when Durst grabbed the pistol from Durst’s home.

California’s prosecutors claimed that Durst killed Black after Black learned Durst’s identity and Durst was afraid Black would surrender. Durst disguised himself as a woman with no speech to hide his fear of being arrested by New York police who were reopening the case about his wife missing.

His own testimony indicates that Black’s death was Durst’s second encounter with a deceased body.

Durst testified that he attempted to dial 911 at the beginning, but decided not to do so because he didn’t want anyone believing he wasn’t guilty.

Durst was in a wheelchair and wore a uniform in jail, but also a suit jacket which would have been appropriate in his older, stronger days. Because of his weakened voice due to esophageal disease, Durst sounded very different from the New Yorker jurors first saw in “The Jinx.”

He was hard of hearing and would read the simultaneous transcriptions of questions from a tablet.

Dick DeGuerin, the lead defense attorney tried to discredit the audio of “killed all”. He claimed it had been edited and kept for many years by the filmmakers before being turned over to authorities. Durst claimed that the microphone did not record Durst saying “They’ll all believe I” before uttering “killed all”.

Durst was also harmed by two pieces of additional evidence. The other was Nick Chavin’s 2017 recorded testimony, which Durst claimed he admitted to in 2014.

I had to. She or I. Chavin told Durst that he had given him no other choice after a dinner in a New York City eatery.

Durst admitted that he wrote a handwritten note to Beverly Hills police directing them towards her undiscovered body. It contained the words “cadaver” as well as Berman’s postal address. Durst denied that he had written the note over 20 years, but he resigned before the testimony started when he was confronted with the evidence.

Durst, the grandson of Joseph Durst but also son of Seymour Durst was responsible for transforming The Durst Organization to one of New York City’s most prestigious real estate firms and constructing some of Manhattan’s iconic skyscrapers.

Robert Durst resigned from the company long ago. It is currently run by Douglas Durst who was his estranged brother. Durst said that Douglas Durst would love to murder him.