LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) Robert Durst is scheduled to be convicted Thursday in a Los Angeles courtroom in the murder of his longtime friend and confidant at his home in Benedict Canyon just over 20 years ago.
Following a four-month trial, the 78-year-old Durst was convicted on September 17 by a jury of first-degree murders on December 23, 2000, in which Susan Berman was shot dead. He was convicted in the special circumstances of allegations of murder while lying in wait, and the murder of a witness. Jurors also found true allegations that Durst personally used and fired a firearm during the crime.
The property mogul faces the possibility of life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Prosecutors argued that Durst shot Berman and then his neighbor, Morris Black, in Galveston, Texas, nine months later — in the head because each of them had harmful information against him and feared they would talk to authorities after a new investigation was launched into the 1982 disappearance of his first wife, Kathleen “Kathie” Durst, whose body has never been found.
Durst spent 14 days at the stand, repeatedly refusing to be involved in Berman’s killing, testifying that he wrote a so-called “corpse” letter to police after finding Berman’s body while using a key she had sent him to to enter her house.
Durst has denied any involvement in his first wife’s disappearance, and he was acquitted in Texas of Blacks’ murder after testifying that the gun went off during a gun battle.
He is due to appear before LA County Superior Court Judge Mark E. Windham at the Airport Courthouse in Los Angeles, where jurors originally began hearing the case in March 2020.
The trial was subsequently moved to a larger courtroom in Inglewood due to concerns about social distance due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which quickly forced a delay of about 14 months in the trial. Jurors returned to court in mid-May when lawyers gave a new and abbreviated round of opening statements before testimony was resumed.
Durst has been behind bars since March 14, 2015, when he was remanded in custody in a hotel room in New Orleans hours before the release of the final episode of the six-part HBO documentary series “The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst,” There investigated Kathie Durst’s disappearance and Berman and Blacks shooting deaths.
During his time at the booth, defendants told jurors that a bathroom footage of him was shown in the series, where he said, “There’s what you’re trapped,” referring to the corpse note, which he eventually admitted to having written.
In his final argument, Deputy District Attorney John Lewin told the jury that there was a “mountain of evidence” against Durst that he said “killed three people” and that it was time Durst was “held accountable.” The prosecutor noted that Durst’s wife had mysteriously disappeared never to be seen again, that Berman was killed after telling Durst that she would talk to the police and watch Kathie Durst’s disappearance, that Black was killed and divided, and that a mutual friend of Durst and Berman testified that Durst had told him about Berman: “It was her or me. I had no choice. ”
Another prosecutor, Habib Balian, told jurors that the killing was “planned” and “deliberate” and that “Susan knew her killer and let him into the house” before being shot in the back of the head as she turned her back.
Balian noted that Durst acknowledged that Berman had told him she would talk to police after the investigation was reopened about Kathie Durst’s disappearance.
Durst has long been alienated from his wealthy family, known for owning a number of New York City skyscrapers, including an investment in the World Trade Center. He split with the family when his younger brother became in charge of the family business, leading to a lengthy legal battle and eventually reaching a settlement in which the family allegedly paid him $ 60 million to $ 65 million.
(© Copyright 2021 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All rights reserved. City News Service contributed to this report.)