New York real estate heir Robert Durst has been sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for the murder of his best friend more than two decades ago.
- Prosecutors say Robert Durst murdered longtime employee who provided him with a false alibi when his wife Kathie Durst disappeared
- He was convicted last month after the trial faced a 14-month suspension due to COVID-19
- The case has been the subject of a film starring Ryan Gosling and Kirsten Dunst as well as the documentary series The Jinx
Durst, 78, was convicted of first-degree murder in the Los Angeles Superior Court last month for shooting Susan Berman in the head at her home in December 2000.
Prosecutors said Durst was silent on Mrs. Berman to prevent her from violating him in the 1982 reopened investigation into the disappearance of his wife, Kathie, in New York.
They said Mrs. Berman had provided a false alibi to Durst when Kathie Durst disappeared.
Durst testified that he did not kill any of the women, but said at cross-examination that he would lie if he had.
Prosecutors also provided evidence that he had intentionally killed a neighbor in Galveston, Texas, in 2001, even though he had been acquitted of murder in that case after testifying he shot the man in self-defense.
Durst is the grandson of Joseph Durst, who founded the Durst Organization, one of Manhattan’s largest commercial real estate companies.
His father, Seymour, took the reins of the business and later left control of it to a younger brother, Douglas.
Robert Durst settled his share of the family fortune and was estimated by prosecutors to have $ 100 million ($ 134 million).
Durst’s lawyer said an appeal was planned.
Further murder charge possible
This current trial began in March 2020 and was postponed for 14 months when the COVID-19 pandemic swept the United States and courts were closed.
It resumed in May this year with the jury reaching its verdict on 17 September.
Berman, the daughter of a Las Vegas mobster, was Durst’s longtime confidant who was preparing to tell police she provided him with a false alibi after his wife disappeared in New York in 1982.
Kathie Durst has never been found, and Robert Durst has never been charged with a crime related to her disappearance.
A person familiar with the case told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity that after his verdict in Berman’s death – which was based on evidence that he had killed his wife – a prosecutor in New York was ready to file charges against him concerning her death.
The defense says Durst deserved a new trial
Defense attorneys argued in court papers that Durst deserved a new trial, saying there was not enough evidence to prove the case, citing 15 ways the judge had allegedly erred.
Judge Mark Windham dismissed the motion, saying the prosecution had overwhelming evidence and proved Durst’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt in at least five ways, including several concessions Durst made. He rejected all the arguments that he had judged incorrectly.
“You said the court was wrong so many times [that] it made me feel confident, ”Judge Windham said.
The defense said Judge Windham should have declared a trial when the jury was sent home and the case adjourned. They said the length of the delay was unprecedented.
Many of the other issues revolve around the taking of evidence, such as having prosecutors testify that Durst killed a neighbor in Galveston, Texas, in 2001 and chopped up his body and threw the parts out to sea.
Durst was acquitted of manslaughter after testifying that Morris Black drew a gun at him and was killed in a fight over the weapon.
They also protested against testimonies and exhibits showing that when Durst was arrested in New Orleans in 2015, he had a mask, fake identification, drugs, $ 40,000 and a loaded gun in his hotel room.
Documentaries, films made case famous
The defense protested against showing jurors a feature film, All Good Things, based on Durst’s life and starring Ryan Gosling as Kirsten Dunst as Kathie Durst.
They wrongly said that the jurors were shown the six-part documentary, “The Jinx: The Life and Crimes of Robert Durst,” even though the jurors were shown excerpts, including a portion, which many took as a confession.
For a moment outside the camera — but with a live microphone — Durst mumbled, “Killed them all, of course.”