American tycoon Robert Durst guilty of murdering his best friend in Beverly Hills
Los Angeles (AFP)
US real estate scion Robert Durst was convicted on Friday of killing his best friend to prevent him from speaking to police about his wife’s disappearance.
Durst, a multimillionaire who was the subject of HBO’s explosive documentary “The Jinx,” has consistently denied shooting Susan Berman in the back of the head in 2000 at her Beverly Hills home.
But a Los Angeles jury took just eight hours in total to convict the 78-year-old of the execution-style murder.
Prosecutors had said he murdered criminal writer Berman in December 2000 to prevent her from being questioned by New York City police over the disappearance of his wife Kathleen two decades earlier.
Berman, the daughter of a Las Vegas gangster, had acted as Durst’s spokesperson after becoming a suspect in Kathleen’s disappearance.
Durst, a distant member of one of New York’s wealthiest and most powerful real estate dynasties, has never been charged in his wife’s case.
He was arrested in March 2015 in a New Orleans hotel room in connection with Berman’s murder, hours before the airing of the final episode of HBO documentary “The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst” .
In the breathtaking finale of the documentary, Durst is heard muttering to himself: “That’s it, you’re caught” and “Killed them all, of course” – seemingly unaware that a microphone remained on while he was using the toilet.
The series also looked at the 2001 death of Durst, Texas neighbor Morris Black, who was found dismembered.
Durst admitted the dismemberment, but claimed the murder was in self-defense. He was acquitted.
Durst testified for 14 days in a lawsuit that seized local media.
He has repeatedly denied any involvement in Berman’s death, but admitted to writing an anonymous letter to police telling them his body was lying in his Beverly Hills home.
Prosecutor John Lewin told the jury that there was a “mountain of evidence” that Durst had killed the three people with whom he had been linked.
He said a friend of Durst’s testified that the real estate mogul told him about Berman: “It was her or me. I had no choice.”
“He was never held responsible for the domestic violence he suffered (wife) Kathie. He was never held responsible for his death. For the past 20 years, he has gotten away with murder. Susan, ”Lewin told the jury.
“In the past 20 years he’s shied away from Morris Black’s responsibility. Durst isn’t cursed. He’s a three-time killer who has managed to escape responsibility until this very moment.”
Durst was not in court when the verdict was read because he was isolating himself from exposure to someone with Covid-19.
He will be sentenced on October 18 and faces life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.
© 2021 AFP