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A Los Angeles jury convicted Robert Durst on Friday of murdering his best friend 20 years ago, a case that was given new life after the New York real estate heir participated in a documentary connecting him to the murder that was related to the disappearance of his wife in 1982..
Durst, 78, was not in court because of the jury’s verdict that deliberated about seven hours over three days. He was isolated in a jail because he was exposed to someone with coronavirus.
Durst, who faces a mandatory sentence of life in prison without parole when he is sentenced Oct. 4. 18, was convicted of the first degree murder of Susan Berman. He was shot point-blank in the back of the neck at his Los Angeles home in December 2000, when he was ready to tell police how he helped cover up the murder of his wife.
Berman, the daughter of a Las Vegas mobster, was Durst’s longtime confidant who told friends that she provided him with a false alibi after his wife disappeared.
Prosecutors painted a portrait of a wealthy narcissist who didn’t believe the laws applied to him and ruthlessly got rid of the people who got in his way. They intertwined the evidence of Berman’s murder with the alleged death of Kathie Durst and the 2001 murder of a tenant at a Texas shelter where Robert Durst hid while fleeing from New York authorities.
Durst was arrested in 2015 while hiding in a New Orleans hotel on the eve of the airing of the final episode of “The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst,” in which he faced incriminating evidence and did what they said. The prosecutors. it was a confession.
Durst could be heard muttering to himself into a live microphone in a bathroom: “There he is. You are trapped “.
Durst’s decision to testify in his own defense, hoping that his acquittal would be repeated in the Texas murder, backfired as he was forced to admit that he lied under oath, made damning admissions, and his credibility was destroyed when he was questioned by the prosecutor.
Defense attorney David Chesnoff said Friday they believed there were “substantial reasonable doubts” and were disappointed with the verdict. He said Durst would pursue all avenues of appeal.
The conviction marks a victory for authorities who have tried to put Durst behind bars for murder in three states. Durst was never charged with the disappearance of his wife, who was never found, and was acquitted of murder in Galveston, Texas, where he admitted to dismembering the victim’s body and throwing it into the sea.
The story of Durst, the estranged scion of a New York real estate developer, has been the subject of New York tabloids since his wife disappeared. He provided such numerous plot twists that Hollywood couldn’t resist making a feature film about his life that ultimately led to the documentary and the discovery of new evidence about Berman’s murder.
Durst fled the law multiple times, disguised as a mute woman in Texas and staying under an alias at a New Orleans hotel wearing a head-to-shoulder latex mask for an alleged getaway. He jumped bail in Texas and was arrested after stealing a chicken sandwich in Pennsylvania, despite having $ 37,000 in cash, along with two guns, in his rental car.
He later joked that he was “the worst fugitive the world has ever known.”
Durst escaped scrutiny from investigators when his wife disappeared. But his problems reappeared in late 2000 when New York authorities reopened the case.
His attorney told him to be prepared to be charged in the case, and he fled a life of luxury to Galveston, Texas, where he rented a cheap apartment as “Dorothy Ciner,” a woman he pretended not to talk about. She finally removed her costume after mishaps that included entering the men’s room and lighting her wig in a bar while lighting a cigarette.
Just before Christmas, he testified that he traveled to Los Angeles to visit Berman for a “home vacation” with plans to see some of the tourist sites.
Durst, who had long denied being in Los Angeles at the time of Berman’s death, testified at trial that he found her dead on a bedroom floor when he arrived.
Berman, a writer who had been friends with Durst since they were students at the University of California, Los Angeles, was in serious financial trouble at the time. Durst had given him $ 50,000 and prosecutors suggested he was trying to get more money from him by telling him he was going to speak to the police.
Nine months after his death, Durst killed his Galveston neighbor, Morris Black, in what he said was an accident or self-defense. Durst said he found Black, whom he had befriended, in his apartment with Durst’s .22 caliber pistol.
Durst was acquitted after testifying that the 71-year-old was killed in a fight over the gun. Thirst then cut up Black’s body and threw it into the sea. He was convicted of destroying evidence for discarding body parts.
After the trial and the gruesome evidence of the dismemberment, Durst found out he was an outcast, he said. Despite a fortune estimated at $ 100 million, several condo associations turned him down and said the Los Angeles County Museum of Art would not accept his money unless he made an anonymous donation.
Durst thought that a 2010 film based on his life, “All the Good Things,” starring Ryan Gosling as him and Kirsten Dunst as Kathie, had been largely accurate and painted a sympathetic portrait, despite implicating him in three murders. . He only objected that he was depicted killing his dog, something he would never do.
He approached the filmmaker and agreed to sit down for lengthy interviews for a documentary. He encouraged his friends to do the same and gave the filmmakers access to boxes with their records.
He came to deeply regret his decision after “The Jinx” aired on HBO in 2015, calling it a “very, very, very big mistake.”
The filmmakers of the documentary uncovered crucial evidence connecting it to an anonymous note sent to police that directed them to Berman’s lifeless body.
Durst, who was so sure he couldn’t connect to the note, told the filmmakers that “only the killer could have written” the note.
The filmmakers confronted him with a letter he sent to Berman a year earlier. The handwriting was identical and Beverly Hills was misspelled as “Beverley” on both. He couldn’t distinguish the two.
The moment it caught you provided the climax of the film as Durst stepped out of the camera and muttered to himself into a live mic in the bathroom: “He killed them all, of course.”
During 14 days of testimony that was so punishing that Judge Mark Windham called it “devastating,” Durst denied killing his wife and Berman, although he said he would lie if he did.
He tried to explain the note and what prosecutors said was a confession during a careless moment.
For the first time, Durst admitted on the witness stand that he sent the note and that he had been in Los Angeles at the time of Berman’s death.
Durst said he sent the note because he wanted Berman to be found, but he didn’t want anyone to know he had been there because it would look suspicious.
He acknowledged that even he had a hard time imagining that he could have written the note without killing Berman.
“It is very difficult to believe, accept, that I wrote the letter and I did not kill Susan Berman,” Durst testified.
One prosecutor said it was one of the truest things Durst said amid a bunch of lies.