A Los Angeles County jury on Friday found real estate heir Robert Durst guilty of murdering his close friend following a lengthy trial in which prosecutors portrayed him as a narcissist who killed to cover up his traces.
Durst, 78, who was not in the courtroom when the verdict was read, initially pleaded not guilty to first degree murder in the point blank shooting of Susan Berman, his confidante and close friend for decades. Prosecutors allege he killed Berman in December 2000 in an attempt to silence her before she considered telling authorities how she provided a false alibi when his wife, Kathie McCormack Durst, went missing in 1982.
Kathie Durst has never been found and has been declared legally dead. Robert Durst has never been charged for his disappearance.
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Jurors began deliberations Tuesday for three hours before suspending for the day. The trial began in March 2020 but has been suspended for 14 months due to the coronavirus pandemic. It resumed in May.
Prosecutors have presented evidence they say proves Durst killed his wife at their south Salem, New York home in an attempt to provide motive for Berman’s murder. They also presented evidence from a previous trial in which Durst was acquitted of shooting a neighbor in Galveston, Texas.
Durst had been in hiding in Texas to avoid possible criminal charges in New York when the investigation into his wife’s disappearance was reopened. He was living in a boarding house under a pseudonym when he killed Morris Black during a gun fight.
He was acquitted of the murder but was convicted of destroying evidence for cutting up Black’s body and throwing it into the sea. Los Angeles prosecutors said Black was killed after discovering the real one. identity of Durst.
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Defense lawyers sought to portray Durst as a “sick, old”, defenseless man who was intimidated by prosecutors on the witness stand. During his testimony, Durst admitted to lying under oath and made several damning confessions. He claimed he did not kill his wife or Berman, but said he would be lying if he did.
“I just hope that when this is over you will let Mr. Durst be in a hospital of his choosing to live out his remaining time,” defense attorney David Chesnoff said.
Deputy District Attorney John Lewin countered that Durst was only old and weak because he had been able to lead a full life, unlike his victims.
“He’s here, he’s old and he’s sick. He has to live until he’s old,” he said. “Kathie never reached the age of 30. Her close friend Susan Berman was horribly executed. Morris Black was murdered and then dismembered.… He is lucky that he could have lived to be 78 years old. for having the health issues he has. Because his victims and their families don’t have the same peace of mind. “
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The controversy surrounding Durst was rekindled after his appearance in the 2015 HBO documentary “The Jinx”. He said he regretted taking part in the film. In the final episode, he was famous for being caught on a hot mic saying, “What did I do? Killed them all, of course.”
Durst claimed there was a misunderstanding and he was speaking too quietly for the mic or hadn’t said what he was thinking.
Stephanie Pagones from Fox News and the Associated Press contributed to this report.