Mr. Durst, the onetime heir to a Manhattan existent property empire, was convicted of sidesplitting a adjacent confidante successful Beverly Hills, Calif., successful 2000.
Sept. 17, 2021Updated 8:51 p.m. ET
LOS ANGELES — Robert A. Durst, the enigmatic existent property scion who evaded transgression suspicion for fractional his beingness lone to go a nationalist sensation aft damaging admissions were aired successful a 2015 documentary connected HBO, was convicted connected Friday successful the execution-style execution of a adjacent confidante much than 20 years ago.
The verdict, which came aft astir 7 and a fractional hours of deliberations, was the latest enactment successful a lawsuit that spanned astir 4 decades. It began successful the affluent precincts of New York with the mysterious disappearance of Mr. Durst’s archetypal wife, Kathie, successful 1982 and concluded with his condemnation for the 2000 sidesplitting of Susan Berman, a person who prosecutors said helped him screen up his wife’s disappearance and death.
Mr. Durst, a frail 78-year-old millionaire who sat done the proceedings successful a wheelchair, was convicted of first-degree execution and faces the anticipation of a beingness sentence. A justice is scheduled to condemnation him astatine aboriginal date.
The proceedings was singular connected galore levels. It began successful March 2020 but adjourned days aboriginal for 14 months due to the fact that of the coronavirus pandemic. When it resumed successful May, the jurors were dispersed crossed the assemblage portion the prosecutors sat successful the assemblage box. Everyone, including the justice and witnesses, wore masks arsenic precautions against Covid-19.
Ultimately, the prosecution called 80 witnesses and introduced astir 300 exhibits. But the astir damaging grounds came, arsenic a lawman Los Angeles County territory attorney, John Lewin, said successful his opening statements, close retired of Mr. Durst’s ain mouth. The assemblage heard Mr. Durst marque a bid of acknowledgments successful a astir three-hour interrogation with Mr. Lewin close aft his apprehension successful 2015, successful hundreds of jailhouse telephone calls and successful much than 20 hours of interviews with the producers of the documentary “The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst.”
Mr. Durst, whose household owns galore iconic buildings successful Manhattan, has lived a beingness with capable titillating elements that they could capable a twelve true-crime shows, including a Mafia princess, a missing young wife, the decease and dismemberment of a drifter, celebrities similar Laraine Newman and Steve Rubell, and decades of household betrayal.
Although Mr. Durst was charged lone with sidesplitting Ms. Berman, the prosecution contended that her decease was connected to the mysterious disappearance of Mr. Durst’s archetypal woman and the sidesplitting of the drifter, whom helium had befriended successful 2001. Mr. Durst was acquitted successful 2003 of sidesplitting the drifter, Morris Black, who lived crossed the hallway from him successful a rooming location successful Galveston, Texas, wherever Mr. Durst was hiding from the authorities and surviving arsenic a mute woman.
Mr. Durst has ne'er been charged successful transportation with his wife’s disappearance contempt investigations by the New York Police Department, the State Police and the Westchester County District Attorney’s Office. His lawyers person emphasized that determination was nary weapon, fingerprints oregon fibers connecting him to her disappearance and death.
Still, the disappearance of his woman has agelong been some successful the inheritance and astatine the halfway of this lawsuit against Mr. Durst; prosecutors said helium had confided successful Ms. Berman, who helped him evade the authorities.
During the trial, grounds was introduced that placed Mr. Durst astatine Ms. Berman’s location successful December 2000. For astir 20 years, Mr. Durst had denied that helium was adjacent successful Los Angeles astatine the clip of her killing. He besides had denied that helium was the writer of an anonymous enactment sent to the Police Department alerting officers to the beingness of a “cadaver” astatine Ms. Berman’s home, connected the borderline of Beverly Hills.
In hearings that took spot earlier the trial, Mr. Durst’s lawyers vigorously disputed grounds by papers examiners who had identified Mr. Durst arsenic the writer of that note. But a person of Mr. Durst’s, Emily Altman, nether withering questioning by Mr. Lewin, blurted retired that Mr. Durst had told her helium was successful Beverly Hills astatine the clip of Ms. Berman’s death.
On the eve of the trial, Mr. Durst’s lawyers acknowledged that their lawsuit had some written the enactment and had recovered Ms. Berman successful a excavation of humor wrong her home. Still, successful his closing arguments, David Chesnoff, 1 of Mr. Durst’s lawyers, said prosecutors had not made their lawsuit against his client. “No grounds is evidence,” helium told jurors. “All you person is this theory. It’s a mentation they privation to trust upon that someway Susan Berman and Bob Durst were successful this concern wherever Susan had thing connected him.”
Mr. Durst’s member Douglas, who oversees the Durst family’s $8 cardinal existent property empire, was a witnesser for the prosecution, arsenic was Nick Chavin, a longtime person of Mr. Durst’s.
Mr. Chavin testified that Mr. Durst contacted him successful December 2014 to accidental helium wanted to speech astir their communal friend, Ms. Berman, and astir his archetypal wife, Kathie McCormack Durst. As the 2 men stood connected the sidewalk extracurricular a edifice successful New York, Mr. Chavin asked Mr. Durst what helium wanted to accidental astir Ms. Berman. According to Mr. Chavin’s testimony, Mr. Durst responded successful his erstwhile characteristically gravelly voice: “It was her oregon me. I had nary choice.”
In his closing arguments, Habib Balian, 1 of the prosecutors, would repetition those words: “The lawsuit tin beryllium summed up successful 9 elemental words. ‘It was her oregon me. I had nary choice.’ That says it all.”