Robert Durst, a millionaire from New York who appears in 'The Jinx,' was convicted of murdering Susan Berman.
On Friday, a Los Angeles jury found Robert Durst guilty of murdering his closest friend 20 years ago, reviving a case that gained fresh life after the New York real estate heir appeared in a documentary linking him to the slaying, which was connected to his wife's 1982 disappearance.
Durst, 78, was not in court for the jury's verdict following a three-day deliberation lasting almost seven hours. He was being held in isolation at a jail after being exposed to a coronavirus carrier.
Durst, who faces a mandatory life sentence without parole when he is sentenced Oct. 18, was convicted of Susan Berman's first-degree murder. She was murdered in the back of the head at point-blank range in her Los Angeles home in December 2000 as she prepared to tell authorities how she assisted in covering up his wife's murder.
Berman, the daughter of a Las Vegas gangster, was Durst's longstanding confidante, according to associates, who said she provided him with a bogus alibi following his wife's disappearance.
Prosecutors portrayed a picture of a wealthy narcissist who disregarded the law and brutally eliminated those who stood in his way. They linked Berman's assassination to Kathie Durst's probable murder and the 2001 murder of a resident in a Texas flophouse where Robert Durst sought refuge from New York authorities.
Durst was arrested in 2015 while hiding out in a New Orleans hotel on the eve of the final episode of "The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst," in which he faced incriminating evidence and allegedly confessed.
Durst could be heard on a live microphone in a restroom muttering to himself: "There it is. You have been apprehended.”
Durst's choice to testify in his own defense — in the hope of repeating his acquittal in the Texas murder — backfired when he was forced to admit lying under oath, made incriminating admissions, and had his credibility damaged when questioned by the prosecutor.
David Chesnoff, the defense attorney, stated Friday that they believed there was "strong reasonable doubt" and expressed disappointment with the conviction. Durst, he stated, would exhaust all appeals.
The conviction is a victory for prosecutors who have attempted to prosecute Durst in three states for murder. Durst was never accused in his wife's disappearance, and he was acquitted of murder in Galveston, Texas, where he admitted dismembering the victim's body and throwing it out to sea.
Since Durst's wife vanished, the story of Durst, the estranged scion of a New York real estate magnate, has been fodder for New York tabloids. He created so many story twists that Hollywood couldn't resist developing a feature film on him, which eventually resulted in the documentary and the uncovering of new evidence in Berman's death.
Durst evaded the law many times, posing as a mute woman in Texas and sleeping under an alias in a New Orleans hotel while wearing a shoulder-to-head latex mask. He skipped bail in Texas and was apprehended in Pennsylvania for snatching a chicken sandwich, despite the fact that he had $37,000 in cash — as well as two pistols — in his rental car.
He later quipped that he was "the world's worst fugitive."
Durst evaded investigators' careful surveillance following his wife's disappearance. However, his issues resurfaced in late 2000 when the case was reopened by New York officials.
His lawyer advised him to prepare for prosecution in the case, and he fled to Galveston, Texas, where he rented a modest apartment as "Dorothy Ciner," a woman he pretended couldn't talk. He later abandoned the disguise following accidents such as wandering into a men's restroom and flaming his wig when smoking a cigarette at a pub.
He testified that he flew to Los Angeles shortly before Christmas to meet Berman for a "staycation," with the intention of visiting some of the tourist attractions.
Durst, who had previously denied being in Los Angeles at the time of Berman's murder, claimed throughout the trial that he discovered her dead on the floor of a bedroom when he arrived.
Berman, a writer and Durst's acquaintance from their days as undergraduates at the University of California, Los Angeles, was facing major financial difficulties at the time. Durst had paid her $50,000, and prosecutors contended that by telling him she was going to speak with the cops, she was attempting to extract additional money from him.
Durst murdered his Galveston neighbor Morris Black nine months after she died, claiming it was an accident or self-defense. Durst stated that he discovered Black, with whom he had become acquainted, in his flat clutching Durst's.22-caliber revolver.
Durst was acquitted after testifying that the 71-year-old was murdered during a gunfight. Durst then dismembered Black's body and threw it into the water. He was convicted of deleting evidence in connection with the disposal of the body parts.
Durst discovered he was a pariah following the trial and the heinous evidence of the dismemberment, he said. Despite his reported $100 million fortune, he was refused by various condominium associations and was told the Los Angeles County Museum of Art would not accept his donation unless he made it anonymously.
Durst believed that a 2010 feature film based on his life, "All Good Things," featuring Ryan Gosling as himself and Kirsten Dunst as Kathie, was mostly true and portrayed a sympathetic portrayal of him, despite the fact that it implicated him in three murders. He simply objected to being depicted as murdering his dog, something he would never do.
He approached the director and agreed to participate in extensive interviews for a documentary. He pushed his pals to do the same and provided access to boxes of his records to the filmmakers.
He started to regret his decision following the 2015 HBO premiere of "The Jinx," calling it a "very, very, very big mistake."
The documentary producers uncovered critical evidence linking him to an anonymous note delivered to authorities directing officers to Berman's lifeless body.
Durst, convinced he could not have authored the memo, told filmmakers that "only the killer could have written" it.
He was confronted by filmmakers with a letter he had sent to Berman a year prior. Beverly Hills was misspelled as "Beverley" on both. He was unable to tell the two apart.
The gotcha moment served as the film's climax, when Durst stepped away from the camera and said to himself on a live microphone in the bathroom: "Of course, I killed them all."
Durst denied killing his wife and Berman throughout 14 days of grueling testimony that Judge Mark Windham described as "devastating," however he stated that he would lie if he did.
He attempted to explain away the memo and what prosecutors described as an unguarded confession.
Durst testified on the witness stand for the first time that he sent the note and was in Los Angeles at the time of Berman's death.
Durst stated that he sent the note because he desired Berman's capture but did not want anyone to know he was there, as this would appear suspicious.
He admitted that even he struggled to conceive of how he might have written the note without killing Berman.
Durst testified, "It's quite difficult to believe, to accept, that I wrote the letter and did not murder Susan Berman."
According to a prosecutor, it was one of the few truthful statements Durst made amid a barrage of fabrications.
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