Robert Durst: a Murder Trial That Took 40 Years

Los Angeles, California – The first time Robert Durst was prosecuted for murder, he declared that he had dismembered his neighbor’s body, placed it in garbage bags and thrown it into the Gulf of Mexico.

But he was acquitted and released: a Texas jury accepted in 2003 his explanation that Morris Black had died during a fight over a gun.

Now Durst will be tried for the murder of his friend Susan Berman, which happened almost 20 years ago. When the trial begins on Wednesday, prosecutors will have a more difficult task ahead because, unlike the previous trial, this time there is no physical evidence.


Prosecutors have a wealth of circumstantial evidence and hope to convince the jury that Durst, a 76-year-old real estate mogul, has been mocking justice for years.

“There is no concrete evidence involving Durst in the murder, except for a note received by the police and sometimes inconsistent statements,” said Neama Rahmani, a former prosecutor and one of the founders of the West Coast Litigation Lawyers (West Coast Trial Lawyers), who has closely followed the case but is not involved in it. “Prosecutors have a tough job.”

Prosecutors say Durst killed Berman in 2000 and Black in 2001 to cover up his role in the disappearance of his wife Kathleen “Kathie” Durst in 1982. For 40 years he has been suspected in connection with that disappearance, much commented by the press The woman has been presumed dead by the authorities even though her body has not been found.

Prosecutors may present evidence related to the three cases in this trial. They will try to prove that Durst shot dead Berman, a writer, daughter of a gangster, who was his spokesman for years, in his Beverly Hills department, to prevent him from talking to the police about his wife’s disappearance after The authorities reopened the investigation.

Prosecutors say in his presentation that Durst “devised and put into practice a diabolical plan to cover up the murder of his wife, which ended up costing the lives of two other people.”

“Basically, prosecutors will again judge the death of his wife to try to fix a motive,” said veteran defense attorney Lara Yeretsian, who also has no role in the case. “It’s as if they were judging two murders in one trial.”

Durst denies any role in the disappearance of his wife and says he did not kill Berman or know who did it.

Prosecutor John Lewin, in charge of the case, will present information that has been publicly known for years because of the journalistic coverage that received the case, which was also the subject of the movie “All Good Things”, of 2010 , with Ryan Gosling and Kirsten Dunst, and a 2015 HBO installment documentary, which included compromising comments from Durst without knowing that they were recording it before the last episode. Those comments motivated his arrest.

“What the hell did I do? I killed them all, of course,” Durst is heard muttering in the documentary.

Durst defense attorneys contend that his client was slandered from a misleading edition of his comments, but prosecutors say they are a confession. It is foreseeable that jurors will see an unedited version of the recording broadcast in the documentary “The Jinx”.

Prosecutors say Durst “confessed to killing several people” before the broadcast of the last episode, “in which for the first time he was going to see very compromising evidence.” He released his words without knowing there was a microphone around.

At the Berman crime scene no fingerprints, DNA samples or a murder weapon were found. The strongest physical test is probably a piece of paper with the word “CADVER” that Durst sent to the authorities, apparently to find the body.

Durst’s lawyers admitted that it was he who wrote the note, something Durst denied for years.

The defense intends to emphasize the lack of evidence.

“Our defense is: first, that he did not do it and second that they cannot prove anything beyond reasonable doubt,” defense attorney David Chesnoff said. “There is very circumstantial evidence and we will offer solid explanations.”

Rahmani said that jurors sometimes have trouble digesting circumstantial evidence.

“They find it difficult to find a person guilty beyond reasonable doubt if there is no physical evidence.”

Prosecutors will also mention that an individual claims that Durst told him that he had killed Berman and others say that Berman had told them that Durst had confessed that he had killed his wife.