Jury begins deliberations in Robert Durst murder trial
LOS ANGELES — A Los Angeles jury began deliberating Tuesday in the lengthy murder trial of New York real estate heir Robert Durst after a prosecutor described him as a “narcissistic psychopath” who needs to be held accountable.
Deputy District Attorney John Lewin told jurors in Los Angeles County Superior Court that Durst, a multimillionaire, had lived a privileged life in which he played by his own rules and only cared about himself. Lewin said he didn’t kill for pleasure but to resolve problems when backed into a corner.
“Bob Durst is not crazy. He’s not some nut job serial killer who goes around killing for the thrill of it,” Lewin said. “Don’t let this narcissistic psychopath get away with what he’s done.”
Durst, 78, who was hunched in a wheelchair in a light blue sportscoat, has pleaded not guilty to a first-degree murder charge in the point-blank shooting of Susan Berman, his confidante.
Prosecutors say Durst killed her in December 2000 at her home as she planned to speak with police about a phony alibi she provided for him when his wife vanished in New York in 1982.
Lewin said Berman was killed because she was a witness. Prosecutors presented evidence of Kathie Durst’s presumed killing to provide his motive and also introduced evidence from a Galveston, Texas, trial where he was acquitted of murder in the shooting death of a neighbor.
Durst had gone into hiding in Texas in late 2000 to avoid what he believed were imminent charges in New York when authorities reopened the investigation into his wife’s disappearance. He testified that Morris Black pulled a gun on him in Durst’s apartment and was shot in the head during a struggle for the weapon.
The defense challenged the strength of the evidence presented by prosecutors, arguing there was no evidence of Kathie Durst’s death and generally a lack of forensic and direct evidence in the case.
They said prosecutors failed to prove that Berman impersonated Kathie Durst to call in sick at the medical school she attended the day after her husband last saw her. The call made it appear she was still alive after Robert Durst had seen her.
“Everything’s been this theory but with no meat to the bone, no evidence,” defense attorney David Chesnoff said. “You know that what I’m telling you is real.”
Kathie Durst has never been found and no one has been charged in her disappearance.
Jurors who were empaneled in March 2020 and then took a 14-month break during the coronavirus pandemic, heard four months of evidence after the case resumed in May.