One of Robert Durst’s attorneys told jurors Monday that the government has not proven its case and urged jurors to acquit the New York real estate scion of the December 2000 killing of his longtime friend in her home in Benedict Canyon, while a prosecutor contended that the defendant was “responsible” for killing the woman and two other people.
“Here, when you apply the facts of this case to the law, I respectfully submit that the state has failed to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt and Bob is not guilty of shooting and murdering his dear friend, Susan Berman,” defense attorney David Chesnoff told jurors in his closing argument.
“The lack of evidence to prove the crime is the evidence you should consider in acquitting Bob.”
Deputy District Attorney John Lewin — who is expected to complete his rebuttal argument Tuesday morning — countered that “Bob Durst, by himself, has proven this case.”
The jury is expected to be handed the case by Tuesday afternoon.
Durst, 78, is charged with murder for Berman’s execution-style slaying.
The murder charge includes the special circumstance allegations of murder while lying in wait and murder of a witness.
Durst — who spent 14 days on the stand — repeatedly denied being involved in Berman’s killing, and testified that he wrote a so-called “cadaver” letter to police after finding Berman’s body while using a key she had sent him to enter her house.
Durst 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 six-part HBO documentary series “The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst,” which examined the disappearance of his first wife, Kathleen “Kathie” Durst in 1982 and the deaths of Berman and his neighbor, Morris Black, in Galveston, Texas, nine months after Berman was killed.
Prosecutors contend that Durst shot Berman and Black in the head because each of them had damaging information against him and feared they would speak to authorities after a re-investigation was begun into Kathie Durst’s disappearance.
Durst was acquitted in Texas of Black’s murder after testifying that the gun went off during a struggle over the weapon.
In his closing argument, Chesnoff countered that the prosecution used “emotionally charged” photos of Black’s dismembered body parts to “make him into some kind of monster,” and noted that Durst is only charged in this case with Berman’s killing.
Chesnoff told jurors Berman did not make a phone call posing as Kathie Durst to the medical school where the missing woman was a student and that she “wasn’t a witness to anything.”
He told the panel that Durst sent money to Berman “not from any threats but affection,” and contended that Berman’s account to friends that she had made the call shouldn’t be trusted because the woman was a “writer” and “attention seeker” who “liked to be dramatic” and “loved to tell stories.”
“… They have not proven that Bob Durst killed Susan Berman beyond a reasonable doubt,” Chesnoff said. “Bob did not kill Kathie Durst, therefore there was no great secret … No evidence is evidence that they haven’t proven their case beyond a reasonable doubt.”
The defense attorney contended that the initial investigation by Los Angeles police into Berman’s killing was “shoddy and incomplete,” and that police didn’t even find a fingerprint from Durst even though he acknowledged being near the body of the woman he had met at UCLA.
“Who else did they miss?” Durst’s attorney asked. “They missed the real killer … This was a botched investigation. Now let’s blame it all on Bob. That’s what we always do and people wonder why Bob Durst was running — because it never stops. You will put a stop to it.’
Chesnoff said the lack of evidence linking Durst to the disappearance of his first wife or Berman’s killing is “consistent with Bob being innocent because he didn’t have anything to do with killing the two women,” while telling jurors that evidence involving Black’s killing in Galveston was “everywhere” because that man was killed accidentally during a struggle with Durst.
Wrapping up his argument, the defense attorney said he hoped that the jury would let Durst — whom he had described earlier as “sick and elderly” — be “in a hospital of his choosing to live out whatever time he has left.”
In his rebuttal argument, Lewin told the panel, “There are three people who this man is responsible for killing, three human beings … behind that facts that you have seen.”
The prosecutor said “Bob Durst by himself has proven this case, by himself, with nothing else.”
“Bob Durst admitted he was inside of the house,” Lewin told jurors. “What forensic evidence would you expect? There’s also substantial circumstantial evidence that Bob Durst was wearing gloves because, if you think about it, there were no fingerprints that were recovered in this case … You would expect him to be wearing gloves because Bob Durst went down there knowing exactly what he was going to do.”
The 55-year-old writer was “executed from behind,” the prosecutor said.
Lewin noted that Durst — who initially denied writing the note to police about Berman’s body — said while being interviewed for “The Jinx” that it was something” only the killer could have written.”
The deputy district attorney said there are “50 different roads” that lead to Durst’s guilt.
Durst told jurors that a bathroom recording of him shown in the series in which he said, “There it is, you’re caught,” referred to the cadaver note he ultimately admitted writing.
Durst had been confronted by Andrew Jarecki — director and co-producer of “The Jinx” — about the cadaver note and two envelopes addressed to Berman and acknowledged that it was pretty obvious that the handwriting was the same, even though he had denied for years that he had written the note to police.
Durst has subsequently admitted that he wrote the letter.
When asked what he meant by his recorded comment “killed them all, of course” that was shown during the series, Durst said, “What I did not say out loud or perhaps I said very softly, `They’ll all think I killed them all, of course.”’
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.
Durst split with the family when his younger brother was placed in charge of the family business, leading to a drawn-out legal battle, and ultimately reached a settlement under which the family reportedly paid him $60 million to $65 million.