Robert Durst took the stand for the primary time Monday in his Los Angeles County homicide trial, the place he’s accused of capturing his good friend Susan Berman in 2000.
The New York actual property inheritor, who has pleaded not responsible to the only rely of homicide, once more denied killing Berman throughout Monday’s testimony.
It is uncommon to see a defendant testify in a homicide trial. But Durst has a historical past of constructing himself heard, having agreed to be interviewed by the manufacturing group of HBO’s 2015 documentary sequence “The Jinx,” which describes his checkered previous. The sequence created shock waves when its last installment coincided with Durst’s arrest.
It can be not his first time testifying in opposition to a homicide cost. Durst took the stand in 2003 to elucidate why he dismembered the physique of his onetime neighbor, 71-year-old Morris Black, whom he admitted to killing in self-defense. The eccentric multimillionaire was acquitted of that crime.
He employed the identical legal professional as he did 18 years in the past, Dick DeGuerin, to signify him within the Berman case, which was initially scheduled to start in early 2020.
Beginning in May of this yr, prosecutors methodically laid out their argument that Durst additionally killed Berman, alleging that he shot her behind the pinnacle at her California home in December 2000 to forestall her from sharing what she allegedly knew about Durst’s first spouse, Kathleen Durst, who vanished in 1982. At the time, Westchester County district legal professional Jeanine Pirro ― now of Fox News ― had lately reopened the case of Kathleen’s disappearance.
According to prosecutors, Berman was in dire monetary straits on the time of her loss of life and had wished to borrow cash from Durst. She threatened to cooperate with the probe, which, prosecutors say, is what sealed her destiny.
Durst denies killing his good friend, and continues to disclaim having any data of the place Kathleen went almost 40 years in the past.
Several witnesses, nonetheless, have testified that they believed Durst advised Berman within the 1980s that he’d killed his spouse. Berman additionally helped her good friend concoct an alibi across the time Kathleen vanished, prosecutors say.
One good friend, Susan Harmon, mentioned Berman known as her in 1982 after chatting with Durst, who, Berman mentioned, had fought along with his spouse and mentioned there was “an accident on the stairs.” At the time, Harmon testified, Berman was “agitated.”
Nick Chavin, a good friend of each Berman and Durst, supplied testimony that Durst basically confessed to Berman’s killing in 2014 when he mentioned, “I had to. It was her or me. I had no choice.”
Another good friend, Robin Karr-Morse, testified that Berman had advised her shortly earlier than Berman died that she was going to assist investigators clear up the chilly case of Kathleen’s disappearance and “blow it wide open.”
Berman, who was 55 when she was killed, labored as a criminal offense author and infrequently served as Durst’s spokesperson. The two had turn out to be associates in faculty.
Police obtained a cryptic handwritten letter supposed to make them Berman’s lifeless physique, which had already been discovered as a result of neighbors had observed her canine operating free on Christmas Eve in 2000. Addressed to “Beverley Hills Police” ― a misspelling of “Beverly Hills” that Durst had used earlier than ― the be aware contained simply Berman’s tackle and the phrase “cadaver.” During a 2015 interrogation, Durst advised police that whoever wrote it “had to be involved” within the killing.
The so-called “cadaver note” featured prominently in “The Jinx,” during which producers in contrast it to Durst’s recognized handwriting, and Durst ultimately admitted to writing it himself.
“The Jinx” made headlines for capturing a supposed confession from Durst that aired on the finish of the sequence. The aged Durst could be heard muttering right into a sizzling mic throughout a toilet break: “What the hell did I do? Killed them all, of course.” Later, nonetheless, it emerged that the manufacturing group had spliced collectively the stunning audio considerably misleadingly.
Durst is extensively suspected to be liable for making his first spouse disappear, though no stays have ever been discovered and he has not been charged in relation to her disappearance or loss of life. He alerted police to her absence in 1982 when he mentioned he had not heard from her in days after placing her on a practice again to Manhattan from their upstate New York home.
He beforehand mentioned that he anxious Pirro, the Westchester prosecutor, would indict him merely to additional her personal political ambitions.
After the reopening of Kathleen’s case nearly 20 years after her disappearance, Durst fled from New York to Galveston, Texas, the place he lived on a budget, pretending to be a mute lady and utilizing a wig to assist his disguise. He later deserted the disguise and have become associates along with his neighbor, Black. In Durst’s telling, Black had introduced a gun into Durst’s condominium and the pair was struggling over it when it went off in Black’s face.
Concerned that nobody would imagine his story, Durst mentioned, he chopped up Black’s physique with a bow noticed and a paring knife, and disposed of the stays within the Galveston Bay, the place a few of them have been found by a 13-year-old. Durst fled to Pennsylvania, the place he was discovered by legislation enforcement after trying to shoplift a sandwich.
Durst’s lengthy historical past of weird habits ― allegedly together with urinating in his uncle’s workplace wastebasket ― ultimately led to him falling out of favor along with his rich household within the 1990s.
The Durst Organization operates a number of landmark buildings in New York City, together with One World Trade, together with a variety of residential items.
Robert’s youthful brother, Douglas Durst, testified in opposition to him in June, telling jurors that Kathleen had revealed she wished to divorce Robert.
Robert Durst resents his brother for sidestepping him to take over the household actual property empire at their father’s invitation a long time in the past, Douglas mentioned.
“He’d like to kill me,” he advised jurors bluntly.
Despite the dangerous blood, the youthful Durst mentioned he solely cooperated with prosecutors beneath menace of subpoena, telling the courtroom, “There are other places I’d much rather be.”
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