The multimillionaire New York actual property inheritor Robert Durst has been convicted of murdering his greatest buddy Susan Berman greater than 20 years in the past, in a case that took on new life following the documentary The Jinx.
Durst was discovered responsible of first diploma homicide on Friday after a jury in Los Angeles deliberated for about seven hours over three days. Berman was shot at point-blank vary in her Beverly Hills house in December 2000 as she was ready to inform police how she helped cowl up the killing of Durst’s spouse.
Berman, the daughter of a Las Vegas mobster, was Durst’s longtime confidante who advised pals she supplied a phony alibi for him after his spouse vanished.
The decision marked the primary murder conviction for a person suspected of killing three folks in three states over almost 40 years. Durst’s unusual story gripped viewers of the hit tv documentary collection The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst, which chronicled the disappearance of his spouse Kathie in 1982, the cold-blooded homicide of Berman in Los Angeles 18 years later, and the violent 2001 dying of a roommate in Galveston, Texas, the place Durst was dwelling below cowl as a deaf-mute lady.
All through the trial, prosecutors painted a portrait of a wealthy narcissist who didn’t assume the legal guidelines utilized to him and ruthlessly disposed of people that stood in his approach. They interlaced proof of Berman’s killing with Kathie Durst’s suspected dying and the 2001 killing in Texas.
The trial had been within the works for 5 years, since Durst’s arrest on the eve of the airing of the ultimate episode of The Jinx. The HBO documentary included interviews with Durst that helped result in the fees in opposition to him.
The conviction marks a victory for authorities who’ve sought to place Durst behind bars for homicide in three states. Durst was by no means charged within the disappearance of his spouse, who has by no means been discovered, and was acquitted of homicide in Galveston, Texas, the place he admitted dismembering the sufferer’s physique and tossing it out to sea.
Durst’s evasion of justice has seen exceptional twists and turns. Durst ran from the legislation a number of instances, disguised as a mute lady in Texas and staying below an alias at a New Orleans lodge with a shoulders-to-head latex masks for a presumed getaway. He jumped bail in Texas and was arrested after shoplifting a hen sandwich in Pennsylvania, regardless of having $37,000 in money together with two handguns in his rental automotive.
He later quipped that he was “the worst fugitive the world has ever met”.
Durst later got here to deeply remorse his determination to take part in The Jinx after it aired on HBO in 2015, calling it a “very, very, very large mistake”.
Within the documentary Durst made a number of damaging new statements on digital camera, notably in regards to the Berman case. One of the crucial incriminating items of proof involved the so-called “cadaver” be aware, an nameless be aware despatched to police directing them to Berman’s lifeless physique.
Durst, who was so assured he couldn’t be linked to the be aware, advised filmmakers “solely the killer may have written” the be aware, which contained merely the tackle of Berman’s home in Beverly Hills and the phrase “cadaver”.
Filmmakers confronted him with a letter he despatched Berman a 12 months earlier. The handwriting was an identical and Beverly Hills was misspelled as “Beverley” on each. He couldn’t inform the 2 aside.
The gotcha second supplied the climax of the film as Durst stepped off digital camera and muttered to himself on a reside microphone within the lavatory: “Killed all of them, after all.”
Throughout 14 days of testimony that was so punishing that Choose Mark Windham known as it “devastating”, Durst denied killing his spouse and Berman, although he stated he would lie if he did. He tried to elucidate away the be aware and what prosecutors stated was a confession throughout an unguarded second.
Durst admitted on the witness stand that he despatched the be aware and had been in Los Angeles on the time of Berman’s dying. He stated he despatched the be aware as a result of he wished Berman to be discovered however didn’t need anybody to know he had been there as a result of it might look suspicious.
He acknowledged that even he had problem imagining he may have written the be aware with out killing Berman.
“It’s very troublesome to consider, to simply accept, that I wrote the letter and didn’t kill Susan Berman,” Durst testified.
A prosecutor stated it was one of many truest issues Durst stated amid a ton of lies.
Jurors started listening to proof in March 2020 earlier than taking a 14-month break throughout the pandemic. The case resumed in Could.
Durst, 78 and frail, is prone to die in jail because the jury additionally discovered him responsible of the particular circumstances of mendacity in wait and killing a witness, which carry a compulsory life sentence. Windham set a sentencing listening to for 18 October.
Andrew Gumbel contributed reporting