Saturday, October 23, 2021

Durst faces day of reckoning in murder of best friend

LOS ANGELES (AP) – The brutal trial of the murder of Robert Durst stretched out for the better part of two years. His sentence will be comparatively short, and he may lack the fireworks that have erupted between the chief prosecutor and the lawyer.

The eccentric heir to New York real estate faces a mandatory life sentence without parole on Thursday for the first-degree murder of his best friend Susan Berman.

“Now that the jury has found the detective, the punishment is clear,” said Loyola Law School professor Lori Levenson. “I’m not sure if (the prosecutor) has anything else to say.”

Durst, 78, was convicted last month by the Los Angeles Supreme Court for shooting Berman in the back of the head at point-blank range at her Los Angeles home just before Christmas 2000.

The trial began in March 2020 and was postponed 14 months as the coronavirus pandemic swept across the United States and the courts were closed. It resumed in May, when a jury delivered its verdict on September 17.

Berman, the daughter of a Las Vegas mobster, was Durst’s longtime confidant, who prepared to tell police that she had provided him with a fake alibi after his wife disappeared in New York in 1982.

Katie Durst was never found. Robert Durst has never been charged with the crime of her disappearance.

But after being convicted of Berman’s death based on evidence that he killed his wife, the New York attorney is now ready to indict him for her death, a person familiar with the matter told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.

Durst testified in the Los Angeles case, denying that he killed his wife or Berman, but said he would be lying if he did.

Katie McCormack Durst’s family had hoped to file claims for their loss in court on Thursday, but prosecutors denied the request, according to emails sent to their lawyer.

Lawyer Robert Abrams said the McCormack family was disappointed and outraged. He said that family members would not be present at the sentencing.

“The family is not going to travel 3,000 miles to be a mainstay in some Hollywood production, to sit there and not be able to make statements about the impact on the victim,” Abrams said. “This is not some kind of film in which this is a disgusting sight. These are their lives, and they have suffered for 40 years. “

The district attorney’s office did not respond to a message requesting comment.

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Levenson said it is doubtful whether Katie Durst was a victim in the Los Angeles case because Robert Durst was not charged with her murder. Allowing her siblings to speak at the sentencing would create another problem for appeal.

Defense lawyers plan to speak out in support of the new trial on Thursday, saying there is insufficient evidence and listing 15 reasons the judge made a mistake.

According to Levenson, the petition is mainly aimed at keeping the questions up for appeal and is likely to fail, although some of their claims may attract the attention of a higher court.

The defense said Judge Mark Windham should have declared a wrong trial when the jury was sent home and the case was adjourned. The delay was unprecedented, they said.

Many of the other issues revolve around the admission of evidence, such as allowing prosecutors to testify that Durst killed his neighbor in Galveston, Texas in 2001, chopped up his body and threw parts into the sea. Durst was acquitted of the murder following witness testimony that Morris Black pointed a gun at him and was killed in a gun battle.

They also objected to testimony and physical evidence that showed that when Durst was arrested in New Orleans in 2015, he had a mask, fake documents, drugs, $ 40,000 in cash and a loaded pistol in his hotel room.

They also objected to the jury showing a feature film based on Durst’s life and the six-part documentary Jinx: The Life and Crimes of Robert Durst.

To limit the number of appeals, Levenson said prosecutors may be more restrained in sentencing, especially when jail sentences have already been set.

Following the conviction, the reporter asked Deputy District Attorney John Levin what he should tell Durst.

Levine, who was aggressive and often refused lawyer Dick DeGerin in the six years from arrest to conviction, first said he had nothing to say to the man he had been stalking for years.

He then called Durst a “narcissistic psychopath” who “killed his wife and … had to keep killing to hide it.”

“He is 78 years old. He’s been out for a long time, ”said Levin. “He had a lot more life, you know, Katie didn’t make 30. Overall, given what he did, he had a lot more life than he was entitled to.”


Associated Press author Michael R. Sisak of New York contributed to this report.

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