Jurors conclude that Durst’s heir ‘killed them all’
Englewood, California. Robert Durst’s long, bizarre and deadly escape from the law ended when a Los Angeles County jury convicted him of killing his best friend of more than 20 years.
The 78-year-old New York real estate heir, who has been a long-running suspect but not charged with his wife’s disappearance in New York in 1982 and acquitted of the 2001 murder of a neighbor in Texas, was convicted Friday. Susan Berman first degree murder.
“Bob Durst has been around for many years, and he’s been able to commit a lot of horrific crimes,” Deputy District Attorney John Lowen said outside Englewood Court. “Given what he did, he got a lot more life than he was entitled to.”
Durst, who was sick and weak and had sat throughout the trial in a wheelchair, was not present when the verdict was read. He was in isolation in prison because he was exposed to someone with coronavirus, a strange development on the jury’s last day.
The global pandemic has dramatically changed the course of the trial, suspending it in March 2020 after just two days of testimony. After a 14-month hiatus, perhaps the longest in the US legal system, the case resumed in May for another four months of testimony.
Durst faces a mandatory life sentence without parole when he was sentenced on October 18.
The jury found Durst ambushed and killed Berman because she was a witness to a crime, which prosecutors said was the suspected murder of Cathy Durst, who was never found. Berman was shot at close range in the back of the head at her Los Angeles home in December 2000.
Berman, the daughter of a Las Vegas mobster, was a longtime confidant of Durst who, at the time of her death, was willing to tell the police that she had given him a false excuse after his wife’s disappearance.
Prosecutors painted a picture of a wealthy narcissist who does not believe the laws apply to him and ruthlessly disposes of people who stand in his way. They forged evidence of the Berman murder, the disappearance of Cathy Durst and the 2001 murder of Maurice Black, a tenant in the Flopp House in Texas where Robert Durst was holed up while fleeing New York authorities.
“He killed his wife and then kept killing to cover it up,” Lewin said.
Lewin, who met the jurors after the verdict, said they believe prosecutors have proven Durst murdered Cathy Durst and Berman and Black.
Attorney David Chesnoff said the defense said it believed there was “a reasonable doubt” and was disappointed in the verdict. He said Durst would pursue all avenues of appeal.
In many ways, Durst had only himself to blame for the investigation taking on a new life after he rejected the advice of lawyers and everyone he knew to participate in an incriminating documentary about his apparent misfortune in the disappearance or loss of people close to him. Export.
Durst was arrested in 2015 while hiding in a New Orleans hotel on the eve of the broadcast of the final episode of “Jinx: The Life and Death of Robert Durst,” where he was confronted with incriminating evidence and making what prosecutors said was a confession.
Durst could be heard mumbling to himself on a live microphone in the bathroom: “Here it is. You’ve been caught.”
Lewin credited filmmakers Andrew Jarecki and Mark Smerling for moving the case.
“If it weren’t for them doing the interviews, we wouldn’t be where we are,” Lewin said. “That was the starting point, no doubt.”
Durst’s decision to testify in his own defense—hoping to repeat his Texas acquittal—backfired as he was forced to confess to lying under oath, plead guilty and destroyed his credibility when Lewin questioned him for nine days.
“There has never been an accused who I know of perjury to himself, so there may be many times about many different things in such a short period of time,” Lewin said. “It was so awful.”
The story of Durst, the estranged descendant of a New York real estate developer, has been fodder for New York tabloids since his wife’s disappearance. He introduced so many plot twists that Hollywood couldn’t resist making a feature film about his life that eventually led to the documentary and the discovery of new clues in Berman’s murder.
Durst got out of the law multiple times, disguised as a silent Texas woman and stayed under an assumed name in a New Orleans hotel with a shoulder-to-head latex mask for a supposed vacation. He jumped bail in Texas and was arrested after stealing a chicken sandwich in Pennsylvania, despite having $37,000 in cash — along with two guns — in his rental car.
He later quipped that he was “the worst fugitive the world has ever met”.
Durst escaped scrutiny from investigators when his wife disappeared. But his problems resurfaced in the late 2000s when New York authorities reopened the case and his lawyer told him to be prepared to charge him in the case.
He escaped from a life of luxury to Galveston, Texas, where he rented a cheap apartment as “Dorothy Sener,” a woman who pretended she could not speak. He eventually dropped the disguise after the mishaps involved lighting a wig in a bar while lighting a cigarette.
Durst testified that just before Christmas, he flew to Los Angeles to visit Berman for a “stay” with plans to see some tourist sites. Berman was found dead on the bedroom floor when he arrived.
Berman, a writer who had been friends with Durst since they were both students at the University of California, Los Angeles, was experiencing serious financial problems at the time. Durst had given her $50,000, and prosecutors suggested she was trying to get more money from him by telling him she was going to talk to the cops.
Nine months after her death, Dorset Black was killed. Durst said he came home to find Black’s friend in his apartment with a .22-caliber Durst pistol.
Durst was acquitted after he testified to the murder of the 71-year-old in a gunfight. Then Dorset cut off Black’s body and threw it into the sea. He was convicted of destroying evidence to dispose of body parts.
After the trial and horrific evidence of the dismemberment, Durst said he had become an outcast. Despite an estimated fortune of $100 million, he was denied by several joint associations and said the Los Angeles County Museum of Art would not take his money unless an anonymous donation was made.
Durst thought Jarecki’s 2010 feature film based on his life, All Good Things, starring Ryan Gosling as him and Kirsten Dunst as Cathy, was largely accurate and painted a sympathetic picture, despite his involvement in three murders. He only objected that he was filmed killing his dog – something he would never do.
He reached out to the director and agreed to sit down for extended interviews for a documentary. He encouraged his friends to do the same and gave the filmmakers access to his record boxes.
He deeply regretted his decision after The Jinx aired on HBO in 2015, calling it a “very, very, very big mistake.”
Documentary filmmakers have discovered a significant piece of evidence linking him to an anonymous note sent to the police directing them to Berman’s dead body.
“Only the killer wrote” the note, Durst, who was too confident he could be in contact with the note, told the filmmakers.
When the filmmakers confronted him with a letter he sent Berman a year ago — in identical handwriting and misspelled Beverly Hills as “Beverly” — he couldn’t distinguish between the two.
The chaotic moment provided the climax of the film as Durst stepped off the camera and muttered to himself over a live microphone in the bathroom: “They killed them all, of course.”
During 14 days of testimony that punished Judge Mark Windham as “devastating,” Durst denied killing his wife and Berman, though he said he would lie if he did.
He was forced to confess for the first time that he wrote the note and was in Los Angeles around the time of Berman’s death.
Lewin said the jurors told him they did not believe Durst’s interpretations of the memo or the apparent confession during an unguarded moment.
Durst claimed that the hot mic didn’t fully capture his thinking, which he said: “They’ll all think I killed them all, of course.”
That’s exactly what the jury concluded, Lewin said.
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