Attorneys are set Wednesday to begin questioning prospective jurors in the trial of millionaire New York real estate scion Robert Durst, who is charged with murdering a friend inside her Benedict Canyon home in December 2000.
Durst — whose past was detailed in an HBO documentary series called “The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst” — is accused of killing Susan Berman, 55, inside her Benedict Canyon home, allegedly because she was prepared to speak to New York investigators about the never-solved disappearance of Durst’s first wife, Kathie, in 1982.
The 76-year-old man has been behind bars since March 14, 2015, when he was taken into custody in a New Orleans hotel room hours before the airing of the final episode of the HBO series, which examined the 1982 disappearance of his first wife, Kathie, along with the killings of Berman and his Texas neighbor Morris Black.
Durst went on trial for Black’s death and dismemberment after a nationwide manhunt in which he was located in Pennsylvania, but a jury acquitted him of murder after agreeing with Durst’s contention that he had killed his neighbor in self-defense.
In the finale of HBO’s “The Jinx,” Durst is caught on microphone muttering to himself, “Killed them all, of course,” and “There it is, you’re caught.”
Deputy District Attorney John Lewin has argued that Durst was “responsible” for his wife’s death in 1982 and got Berman to help him cover his tracks — in part by having her pretend to be his wife in a telephone call to the dean of the New York medical school his wife was attending at the time of her disappearance. The prosecutor contends Durst killed Berman because he was “afraid she was going to talk.”
One of Durst’s attorneys, David Chesnoff, has countered that there were no fingerprints, DNA, blood, hair samples or eyewitnesses linking his client to the crime.
Durst has been long estranged from his real estate-rich family, which is known for ownership of a series of New York City skyscrapers — including an investment in the World Trade Center. He split with the family when his younger brother was placed in charge of the family business, leading to a drawn-out legal battle.
According to various media reports, Durst ultimately reached a settlement under which the family paid him $60 million to $65 million.
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