Robert Durst’s Murder Trial Begins After Decades of Suspicion


LOS ANGELES — It is potentially fitting that the protection team for Robert A. Durst, the one particular-time heir to a Manhattan genuine estate empire who is on demo for murder, is now ensconced in the magnificent Peninsula Hotel in Beverly Hills.

It was around breakfast at that resort in 2010 that Mr. Durst designed the fateful conclusion to cooperate with a filmmaker, Andrew Jarecki, ultimately agreeing to offer extra than 20 hours of interviews and access to 60 cartons of his private papers.

His final decision to split his silence at the lodge — after virtually 4 many years of becoming trailed by suspicions that he was involved in the deaths of 3 people in a few states — led in no small way to an HBO documentary, “The Jinx: The Lifestyle and Fatalities of Robert Durst,” in 2015 and his subsequent arrest on murder charges in the execution-design killing of his close close friend Susan Berman in Los Angeles in December 2000.

The lawyers have established a war place at the hotel to prepare their protection of Mr. Durst from the prosecution’s contention that their customer executed Ms. Berman due to the fact he was afraid that she was about to expose to the authorities her part in aiding him cover-up the disappearance and murder of his initial wife, Kathie, in 1982.

The prosecution also maintains that Mr. Durst killed a neighbor, Morris Black, in Galveston, Texas, where Mr. Durst had long gone to hide immediately after discovering in October 2000 of a new investigation into his wife’s disappearance.

In a vigorous opening statement from the protection on Tuesday, David Z. Chesnoff told the jury that there were being no fingerprints, blood, DNA or fibers linking Mr. Durst to Ms. Berman’s demise, the only slaying with which he has been charged.

“We think the absence of evidence is evidence that Bob is not guilty,” Mr. Chesnoff explained.

As for Mr. Black’s slaying, a jury acquitted Mr. Durst in 2003, said Dick DeGuerin, Mr. Chesnoff’s co-counsel, in spite of Mr. Durst’s testimony about carving up the body and dumping it in Galveston Bay.

Left largely untouched on Tuesday is what lies at the coronary heart of the prosecution’s scenario: Mr. Durst’s possess statements from 20 hours of interviews with the producers of “The Jinx,” coupled with his many jail dwelling telephone phone calls and his approximately a few-hour job interview with John Lewin, deputy district attorney of Los Angeles.

On Tuesday, Mr. DeGuerin attacked “The Jinx,” which he stated was a “deviously deceptive and heavily edited tv output, not a documentary.” Whilst it will not be performed in courtroom, the prosecution programs to present jurors the raw unedited interviews with Mr. Durst.

In his have words and phrases, Mr. Durst conceded that he and his wife experienced a “pushing and shoving” combat the evening she disappeared, months prior to her graduation from healthcare college. He admitted lying to the law enforcement about his whereabouts when she disappeared. In modern many years, he has acknowledged that the couple’s marriage had been marked by his violence in opposition to her.

He advised Mr. Lewin in 2015 that Ms. Berman had instructed him shortly right before she was killed that she was organizing to speak to the investigators hunting into Mrs. Durst’s disappearance. Investigators experienced very long suspected that Ms. Berman, who was fiercely faithful to Mr. Durst, realized his tricks.

“It’s a extensive and complicated story for the reason that Mr. Durst fully commited a ton of crimes,” Mr. Lewin stated as he concluded his unusually prolonged and thorough three-day opening assertion for the prosecution. “As you’re listening, some of the most damaging elements of this scenario are going to occur from him.”

And when there may well be very little “forensic proof,” there is the uncomplicated simple fact that Mr. Durst was in Ms. Berman’s house around the time of her demise.

Following 20 a long time of denying that Mr. Durst was in Los Angeles or at Ms. Berman’s dwelling, his lawyers now say that Mr. Durst had advised Ms. Berman — a near good friend considering the fact that the 1960s when they the two attended UCLA — that he was arranging to take a look at her above the Christmas holidays, details that she excitedly relayed to her mates.

Mr. Durst experienced also denied for 20 many years that he wrote an nameless letter alerting the law enforcement to a dead physique at Ms. Berman’s dwelling. The letter was postmarked Dec. 23, 2000, the working day prior to the law enforcement discovered Ms. Berman at her dwelling in a pool of blood with a gunshot wound to the back again of her head.

In their opening assertion on Tuesday, the defense lawyers advised the jury that Mr. Durst experienced utilised his important to enter Ms. Berman’s household. “Bob showed up and found her useless and he panicked,” Mr. DeGuerin claimed. “He wrote the anonymous letter so her entire body would be discovered and he ran. He’s run absent all his lifetime.”

The story of Mr. Durst, the alienated scion of a New York genuine estate family, has ample twists and turns to demand a navigation app. And there is some thing in the story for everyone who has at any time picked up a thriller: murder mysteries, cross-dressing, a nationwide manhunt a well known real estate household, a betrayal of biblical proportions and allegations of a cover-up.

“I’ve in no way witnessed a far more appealing scenario in my vocation,” Decide Mark E. Windham explained through jury choice.

The prosecution states that Ms. Berman made a significant mobile phone get in touch with after Mrs. Durst disappeared, right after a weekend away with her partner at their cottage north of Manhattan, that threw the investigation off study course. Posing as his spouse, Ms. Berman named a medical university dean stating that she would not show up at a clinic rotation that day. 4 days later, Mr. Durst walked into a Manhattan police station to report that his wife was missing.

The tale, which targeted on Manhattan alternatively than the couple’s suburban cottage, was large headlines in the city’s tabloids. For the reason that there was no system and no signal of her, the situation eventually light away.

In late 2000, Mr. Durst acquired that investigators experienced reopened the circumstance and he fled to Texas, where by he rented an apartment for $300 a month and posed as a mute woman.

A small time later on, Ms. Berman was located lifeless in Los Angeles. Originally, suspicion fell on her landlady and her agent. But they were quickly cleared and detectives turned to Mr. Durst, who at the time was in jail on costs of killing Mr. Black.

As the defense depicted Mr. Durst as an odd and pathetic figure who unsuccessful to select up on social cues, Mr. Lewin painted Mr. Durst as a guy who hardly ever performed by the policies, who would get rid of when backed into a corner.

“Evidence will exhibit,” quite a few items, Mr. Lewin informed the jury, such as that “Bob Durst is a individual who is heading to safeguard and get treatment of Bob Durst.”


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