A jury on Friday discovered Robert Durst responsible of murdering Susan Berman, siding with the prosecution’s case that the inheritor of a famed Manhattan actual property empire put a bullet behind his buddy’s head to maintain her from telling police concerning the demise of his spouse nearly twenty years earlier.
Durst, 78, was not within the courtroom Friday, after it was revealed he had been uncovered to somebody who had examined optimistic for COVID-19. After a five-month trial that included an 11-week presentation from prosecutors and 15 days of testimony from Durst himself, the jurors deliberated for simply eight hours over a span of three days.
To show their concept of why Durst killed Berman, L.A. County prosecutors spent weeks attempting to persuade the jury that Durst additionally killed his spouse, Kathie McCormack, who disappeared in New York in 1982.
While the trial ostensibly centered on the homicide of Berman, who was discovered Dec. 24, 2000, in her Benedict Canyon home, blood pooling round her head, it grew to become a probing account of Durst’s whole life, one characterised by huge wealth, strained relationships with household and a curious sample of these closest to him turning up lacking or useless.
Jurors additionally upheld a particular circumstance allegation that Durst killed Berman as a result of she was a witness and that he used a gun within the fee of the slaying. As a outcome, Durst will face life in jail with out the opportunity of parole. A sentencing listening to is scheduled for Oct. 18.
Late Friday, the McCormack household issued a press release celebrating the jury’s choice and calling on prosecutors in Westchester County, N.Y., to carry the actual property inheritor to trial for the demise of his spouse.
“The justice system in Los Angeles has finally served the Berman family. It is now time for Westchester to do the same for the McCormack family and charge Durst for the murder of his wife, Kathie, which occurred almost 40 years ago. They have had interviews, statements and documents for months,” the assertion learn. “The closing arguments by the Los Angeles deputy district attorneys should remove any doubt. It’s bizarre and unacceptable that Durst was tried for killing an accomplice before being held accountable for Kathie’s murder.”
For 5 months, jurors in an Inglewood courtroom heard testimony from prosecution witnesses, watched hours of Durst’s recorded interviews with regulation enforcement and filmmakers, scrutinized yellowing paperwork and, lastly, heard from Durst himself.
Durst, 78, testified that he flew to California in 2000, meaning to spend time with Berman, whom he had met at UCLA within the 1960s. He let himself into her Benedict Canyon home with a spare key, he stated.
“I did a double take. I saw Susan lying on the floor,” he testified. “I shouted, ‘Susan!’ a couple of times, then I quickly ran to the bedroom where she was. Her eyes were closed.”
Unable to reach the police with Berman’s landline, Durst stated, he drove to a payphone on Sunset Boulevard. He wavered, not wanting police to acknowledge his voice and determined as a substitute of calling to mail a letter to the Beverly Hills Police Department, telling them a “cadaver” was inside Berman’s home, he testified.
Prosecutors argued that the account defies logic. The solely individual with a motive to kill Berman, and the one individual with the power to get inside Berman’s home with out a battle, was Durst, Deputy Dist. Atty. Habib Balian argued final week to the jury.
The prosecution sought to show that nearly 19 years earlier than she was killed, Berman helped Durst cowl up the demise of his spouse. By his personal admission, Durst had abused McCormack, bodily and emotionally. Prosecutors argued that Durst killed his spouse in 1982 inside their home in South Salem in New York’s Westchester County.
The subsequent day, a girl known as a dean at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, the place McCormack was finding out to turn out to be a physician.
The caller recognized herself as McCormack and instructed the dean she was too in poor health to return to class. That caller, the prosecution argued, was Berman.
The daughter of a Las Vegas gangster, Berman had been raised to worth loyalty above all else, associates testified. She held Durst’s secret for years, the prosecution argued, however over time, as her writing profession foundered and her funds grew bleak, she started leaning on her outdated buddy for cash.
Durst noticed his buddy in a brand new mild in 2000, when New York authorities reopened the dormant investigation into his spouse’s disappearance, the prosecution argued. Berman instructed Durst she’d been contacted by the police. They needed to speak about McCormack.
“That was the moment Susan Berman sealed her fate,” Balian instructed the jury.
On the final day of her life, Berman would have opened the door to her outdated buddy, Balian stated. Her home mirrored the grim state of her circumstances: a mattress on a naked concrete ground, towels over the home windows. Durst would have waited till Berman turned her again to him, Balian stated, then put his gun inside an inch of the again of her head and pulled the set off.
This story initially appeared in Los Angeles Times.