18th September, 2021
U.S. Multimillionaire real estate heir Robert Durst was found guilty Friday by a California jury for murdering his best friend Susan Berman in 2000.
It was the first homicide conviction for a man suspected of killing three people in three states over the past 39 years.
Durst, 78 and frail, will likely die in prison as the jury also found him guilty of the special circumstances of lying in wait and killing a witness, which carry a mandatory life sentence.
Superior Court Judge Mark Windham, who oversaw the trial, set a sentencing hearing for Oct. 18.
The trial came six years after Durst’s apparent confession was aired in the HBO television documentary series “The Jinx,” in which Durst was caught on a hot microphone in the bathroom saying to himself, “What the hell did I do? … Killed them all, of course.”
The nine-woman, three-man jury had deliberated for seven and a half hours over three days.
Durst, who has been in jail for the duration of the trial, was not present for the reading of the verdict because he was in isolation after having been exposed to somebody with COVID-19.
Windham decided to have the verdict read in Durst’s absence.
Speaking to attorneys for both sides later, he called the case “the most extraordinary trial that I’ve ever seen or even heard about.”
Lead prosecutor John Lewin, who had pursued Durst for years, credited “The Jinx” filmmakers Andrew Jarecki and Marc Smerling for their revealing interviews with Durst.
Lewin told reporters after the verdict: “Without them having conducted the interviews, we wouldn’t be where we are.”
In closing arguments, Lewin called Durst a “narcissistic psychopath” who killed Berman in an attempt to cover up the disappearance of his wife, Kathleen McCormack Durst, in New York in 1982.
Durst was only on trial for killing Berman in California, but prosecutors argued he murdered three people: his missing wife, Berman and a neighbor in Texas who discovered his identity when Durst was hiding from the law.
Despite long being a suspect in the disappearance of his wife, a 29-year-old medical student, Durst was never charged.
Prosecutors said he killed her, then decided to kill Berman 18 years later because she had told others that she helped Durst cover up the crime.
Berman, 55, was shot in the back of her head inside her Beverly Hills home.
Shortly after the verdict, the McCormack family issued a statement urging prosecutors in Westchester County, New York, to prosecute Durst.
“The justice system in Los Angeles has finally served the Berman family. It is now time for Westchester to do the same for the McCormack family,” the statement said.
Westchester County District Attorney Mimi Rocah reopened the case in May, shortly after taking office.
Durst is the grandson of the founder of The Durst Organization, one of New York City’s premier real estate companies.
He long ago left the company, now run by his estranged brother Douglas Durst, who testified at trial and said of his sibling: “He’d like to murder me.”