Prosecutor: Jurors conclude Durst heir 'killed them all'

  • FILE - In this Thursday, March 5, 2020, file photo, Real estate heir Robert Durst sits during his murder trial at the Airport Branch Courthouse in Los Angeles. A Los Angeles jury convicted Robert Durst Friday, Sept. 17, 2021 of murdering his best friend Susan Berman, 20 years ago in a case that took on new life after the New York real estate heir participated in a documentary that connected him to the slaying linked to his wife's 1982 disappearance. (Robyn Beck/AFP via AP, Pool, File)

    FILE - In this Thursday, March 5, 2020, file photo, Real estate heir Robert Durst sits during his murder trial at the Airport Branch Courthouse in Los Angeles. A Los Angeles jury convicted Robert Durst Friday, Sept. 17, 2021 of murdering his best friend Susan Berman, 20 years ago in a case that took on new life after the New York real estate heir participated in a documentary that connected him to the slaying linked to his wife's 1982 disappearance. (Robyn Beck/AFP via AP, Pool, File) Associated Press

  • Robert Durst in his wheelchair spins in place as he looks at people in the courtroom as he appears in a courtroom in Inglewood, Calif. on Wednesday, Sept. 8, 2021, with his attorneys for closing arguments presented by the prosecution in the murder trial of the New York real estate scion who is charged with the longtime friend Susan Berman's killing in Benedict Canyon just before Christmas Eve 2000. (Al Seib/Los Angeles Times via AP, Pool)

    Robert Durst in his wheelchair spins in place as he looks at people in the courtroom as he appears in a courtroom in Inglewood, Calif. on Wednesday, Sept. 8, 2021, with his attorneys for closing arguments presented by the prosecution in the murder trial of the New York real estate scion who is charged with the longtime friend Susan Berman's killing in Benedict Canyon just before Christmas Eve 2000. (Al Seib/Los Angeles Times via AP, Pool) Associated Press

  • FILE - In this March 4, 2020, file pool photo Deputy District Attorney John Lewin presents opening arguments with a photo displayed of Susan Berman during Robert Durst's murder trial at the Airport Branch Courthouse in Los Angeles. A Los Angeles jury convicted Robert Durst Friday, Sept. 17, 2021 of murdering his best friend 20 years ago in a case that took on new life after the New York real estate heir participated in a documentary that connected him to the slaying linked to his wife's 1982 disappearance.  (Etienne Laurent/EPA via AP, Pool, File)

    FILE - In this March 4, 2020, file pool photo Deputy District Attorney John Lewin presents opening arguments with a photo displayed of Susan Berman during Robert Durst's murder trial at the Airport Branch Courthouse in Los Angeles. A Los Angeles jury convicted Robert Durst Friday, Sept. 17, 2021 of murdering his best friend 20 years ago in a case that took on new life after the New York real estate heir participated in a documentary that connected him to the slaying linked to his wife's 1982 disappearance. (Etienne Laurent/EPA via AP, Pool, File) Associated Press

  • FILE - In this Sept. 8, 2021, file photo, Robert Durst looks at jurors as he appears in a courtroom in Inglewood, Calif. A Los Angeles jury convicted Robert Durst Friday, Sept. 17, 2021 of murdering his best friend 20 years ago in a case that took on new life after the New York real estate heir participated in a documentary that connected him to the slaying linked to his wife's 1982 disappearance.(Al Seib/Los Angeles Times via AP, Pool, File)

    FILE - In this Sept. 8, 2021, file photo, Robert Durst looks at jurors as he appears in a courtroom in Inglewood, Calif. A Los Angeles jury convicted Robert Durst Friday, Sept. 17, 2021 of murdering his best friend 20 years ago in a case that took on new life after the New York real estate heir participated in a documentary that connected him to the slaying linked to his wife's 1982 disappearance.(Al Seib/Los Angeles Times via AP, Pool, File) Associated Press

  • Deputy District Attorney Habib A. Balian holds a rubber latex mask, worn by Robert Durst when police arrested him, Wednesday, Sept. 8, 2021 in Inglewood, Calif. Robert Durst is a champion at running from responsibility, covering his tracks with lies so numerous he couldn't keep them all straight, a prosecutor said Wednesday during closing arguments in the New York real estate heir's murder trial. (Al Seib/Los Angeles Times via AP, Pool)

    Deputy District Attorney Habib A. Balian holds a rubber latex mask, worn by Robert Durst when police arrested him, Wednesday, Sept. 8, 2021 in Inglewood, Calif. Robert Durst is a champion at running from responsibility, covering his tracks with lies so numerous he couldn't keep them all straight, a prosecutor said Wednesday during closing arguments in the New York real estate heir's murder trial. (Al Seib/Los Angeles Times via AP, Pool) Associated Press

  • FILE - In this Monday, Aug. 9, 2021, file photo, New York real estate scion Robert Durst, 78, answers questions from defense attorney Dick DeGuerin, while testifying in his murder trial at the Inglewood Courthouse in Inglewood, Calif. A Los Angeles jury convicted Robert Durst Friday, Sept. 17, 2021 of murdering his best friend 20 years ago in a case that took on new life after the New York real estate heir participated in a documentary that connected him to the slaying linked to his wife's 1982 disappearance. (Gary Coronado/Los Angeles Times via AP, Pool, File)

    FILE - In this Monday, Aug. 9, 2021, file photo, New York real estate scion Robert Durst, 78, answers questions from defense attorney Dick DeGuerin, while testifying in his murder trial at the Inglewood Courthouse in Inglewood, Calif. A Los Angeles jury convicted Robert Durst Friday, Sept. 17, 2021 of murdering his best friend 20 years ago in a case that took on new life after the New York real estate heir participated in a documentary that connected him to the slaying linked to his wife's 1982 disappearance. (Gary Coronado/Los Angeles Times via AP, Pool, File) Associated Press

  • FILE - In this Friday, Sept. 19, 2003, file photo, Robert Durst sits in the courtroom as attorneys meet with the judge in chambers in Galveston, Texas. Durst, then 60, whose late father, Seymour, founded a Manhattan-based real estate empire still run by the family, is charged with the 2001 slaying of Morris Black. A Los Angeles jury convicted Robert Durst Friday, Sept. 17, 2021 of murdering his best friend Susan Berman, 20 years ago in a case that took on new life after the New York real estate heir participated in a documentary that connected him to the slaying linked to his wife's 1982 disappearance.

    FILE - In this Friday, Sept. 19, 2003, file photo, Robert Durst sits in the courtroom as attorneys meet with the judge in chambers in Galveston, Texas. Durst, then 60, whose late father, Seymour, founded a Manhattan-based real estate empire still run by the family, is charged with the 2001 slaying of Morris Black. A Los Angeles jury convicted Robert Durst Friday, Sept. 17, 2021 of murdering his best friend Susan Berman, 20 years ago in a case that took on new life after the New York real estate heir participated in a documentary that connected him to the slaying linked to his wife's 1982 disappearance. Associated Press

  • Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Mark E. Windham receives the verdict from the bailiff during the Robert Durst murder trial Friday, Sept. 17, 2021 in Inglewood, Calif. A Los Angeles jury convicted Robert Durst on Friday of murdering his best friend 20 years ago, a case that took on new life after the New York real estate heir participated in a documentary that connected him to the slaying that was linked to his wife's 1982 disappearance. (Genaro Molina/Los Angeles Times via AP, Pool)

    Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Mark E. Windham receives the verdict from the bailiff during the Robert Durst murder trial Friday, Sept. 17, 2021 in Inglewood, Calif. A Los Angeles jury convicted Robert Durst on Friday of murdering his best friend 20 years ago, a case that took on new life after the New York real estate heir participated in a documentary that connected him to the slaying that was linked to his wife's 1982 disappearance. (Genaro Molina/Los Angeles Times via AP, Pool) Associated Press

  • Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Mark E. Windham thanks the jury for their service after they found New York real estate heir Robert Durst guilty of murder Friday, Sept. 17, 2021 in Inglewood, Calif. A Los Angeles jury convicted Robert Durst on Friday of murdering his best friend 20 years ago, a case that took on new life after the New York real estate heir participated in a documentary that connected him to the slaying that was linked to his wife's 1982 disappearance. (Genaro Molina/Los Angeles Times via AP, Pool)

    Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Mark E. Windham thanks the jury for their service after they found New York real estate heir Robert Durst guilty of murder Friday, Sept. 17, 2021 in Inglewood, Calif. A Los Angeles jury convicted Robert Durst on Friday of murdering his best friend 20 years ago, a case that took on new life after the New York real estate heir participated in a documentary that connected him to the slaying that was linked to his wife's 1982 disappearance. (Genaro Molina/Los Angeles Times via AP, Pool) Associated Press

  • Deputy District Attorney John Lewin, left, congratulates attorney Habib A. Balian, center, after New York real estate heir Robert Durst was found guilty Friday, Sept. 17, 2021 in Inglewood, Calif. A Los Angeles jury convicted Robert Durst on Friday of murdering his best friend 20 years ago, a case that took on new life after the New York real estate heir participated in a documentary that connected him to the slaying that was linked to his wife's 1982 disappearance. (Genaro Molina/Los Angeles Times via AP, Pool)

    Deputy District Attorney John Lewin, left, congratulates attorney Habib A. Balian, center, after New York real estate heir Robert Durst was found guilty Friday, Sept. 17, 2021 in Inglewood, Calif. A Los Angeles jury convicted Robert Durst on Friday of murdering his best friend 20 years ago, a case that took on new life after the New York real estate heir participated in a documentary that connected him to the slaying that was linked to his wife's 1982 disappearance. (Genaro Molina/Los Angeles Times via AP, Pool) Associated Press

  • Deputy District Attorney John Lewin, center, is congratulated as attorney Habib A. Balian, right, looks on after New York real estate heir Robert Durst was found guilty Friday, Sept. 17, 2021 in Inglewood, Calif. A Los Angeles jury convicted Robert Durst on Friday of murdering his best friend 20 years ago, a case that took on new life after the New York real estate heir participated in a documentary that connected him to the slaying that was linked to his wife's 1982 disappearance. (Genaro Molina/Los Angeles Times via AP, Pool)

    Deputy District Attorney John Lewin, center, is congratulated as attorney Habib A. Balian, right, looks on after New York real estate heir Robert Durst was found guilty Friday, Sept. 17, 2021 in Inglewood, Calif. A Los Angeles jury convicted Robert Durst on Friday of murdering his best friend 20 years ago, a case that took on new life after the New York real estate heir participated in a documentary that connected him to the slaying that was linked to his wife's 1982 disappearance. (Genaro Molina/Los Angeles Times via AP, Pool) Associated Press

  • Attorney's for Robert Durst, David Chesnoff, left, and Dick Deguerin, with black mask, sit with prosecuting attorney's, Deputy District Attorney John Lewin and Habib A. Balian, right, listen as Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Mark E. Windham reads the verdict Friday, Sept. 17, 2021 in Inglewood, Calif. A Los Angeles jury convicted Robert Durst on Friday of murdering his best friend 20 years ago, a case that took on new life after the New York real estate heir participated in a documentary that connected him to the slaying that was linked to his wife's 1982 disappearance. (Genaro Molina/Los Angeles Times via AP, Pool)

    Attorney's for Robert Durst, David Chesnoff, left, and Dick Deguerin, with black mask, sit with prosecuting attorney's, Deputy District Attorney John Lewin and Habib A. Balian, right, listen as Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Mark E. Windham reads the verdict Friday, Sept. 17, 2021 in Inglewood, Calif. A Los Angeles jury convicted Robert Durst on Friday of murdering his best friend 20 years ago, a case that took on new life after the New York real estate heir participated in a documentary that connected him to the slaying that was linked to his wife's 1982 disappearance. (Genaro Molina/Los Angeles Times via AP, Pool) Associated Press

  • Deputy District Attorney John Lewin, right, is congratulated after Robert Durst convicted Friday, Sept. 17, 2021, in Inglewood, Calif., of murdering Susan Berman 20 years ago. Durst was not in court to hear the verdict read because he was in isolation following an exposure to COVID-19. (Genaro Molina/Los Angeles Times via AP, Pool)

    Deputy District Attorney John Lewin, right, is congratulated after Robert Durst convicted Friday, Sept. 17, 2021, in Inglewood, Calif., of murdering Susan Berman 20 years ago. Durst was not in court to hear the verdict read because he was in isolation following an exposure to COVID-19. (Genaro Molina/Los Angeles Times via AP, Pool) Associated Press

  • Robert Durst attorney's Dick Deguerin, left, and David Chesnoff listen to the verdict being read by Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Mark E. Windham in court Friday, Sept. 17, 2021 in Inglewood, Calif. A Los Angeles jury convicted Robert Durst on Friday of murdering his best friend 20 years ago, a case that took on new life after the New York real estate heir participated in a documentary that connected him to the slaying that was linked to his wife's 1982 disappearance. (Genaro Molina/Los Angeles Times via AP, Pool)

    Robert Durst attorney's Dick Deguerin, left, and David Chesnoff listen to the verdict being read by Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Mark E. Windham in court Friday, Sept. 17, 2021 in Inglewood, Calif. A Los Angeles jury convicted Robert Durst on Friday of murdering his best friend 20 years ago, a case that took on new life after the New York real estate heir participated in a documentary that connected him to the slaying that was linked to his wife's 1982 disappearance. (Genaro Molina/Los Angeles Times via AP, Pool) Associated Press

 
 
Updated 9/18/2021 10:29 AM

INGLEWOOD, Calif. -- Robert Durst's long, bizarre and deadly run from the law ended when a Los Angeles County jury convicted him in the murder of his best friend more than 20 years ago.

The 78-year-old New York real estate heir, who was long suspected but never charged in the disappearance of his wife in New York in 1982 and acquitted of murder in the 2001 killing of a neighbor in Texas, was found guilty Friday of the first-degree murder of Susan Berman.

 

'úBob Durst has been around a lot of years, and he's been able to commit a lot of horrific crimes,'Ě Deputy District Attorney John Lewin said outside the Inglewood Courthouse. 'úConsidering what he's done, he got a lot more of a life than he was entitled to.'Ě

Durst, who is sick and frail and sat throughout the trial in a wheelchair, was not present when the verdict was read. He was in isolation at a jail because he was exposed to someone with coronavirus, an odd twist on the jury's final day.

The global pandemic significantly altered the course of the trial, suspending it in March 2020 after only two days of testimony. After a 14-month break, possibly the longest in the U.S. legal system, the case resumed in May for four more months of testimony.

Durst faces a mandatory term of life in prison without parole when sentenced Oct. 18.

The jury found Durst ambushed Berman and killed her because she was a witness to a crime, which prosecutors said was the suspected killing of Kathie Durst, who has never been found. Berman was shot at point-blank range in the back of the head in her Los Angeles home in December 2000.

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Berman, the daughter of a Las Vegas mobster, was Durst's longtime confidante who, at the time of her death, was prepared to tell police she provided a phony alibi for him after his wife vanished.

Prosecutors painted a portrait of a rich narcissist who didn't think the laws applied to him and ruthlessly disposed of people who stood in his way. They interlaced evidence of Berman's killing, Kathie Durst's disappearance and the 2001 killing of Morris Black, a tenant in a Texas flophouse where Robert Durst holed up while on the run from New York authorities.

'úHe killed his wife and then he had to keep killing to cover it up,'Ě Lewin said.

Lewin, who met with jurors after the verdict, said they believed prosecutors proved Durst killed Kathie Durst and murdered Berman and Black.

The defense said they believed there was 'úsubstantial reasonable doubt'Ě and were disappointed in the verdict, attorney David Chesnoff said. He said Durst would pursue all avenues of appeal.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

In many ways, Durst had only himself to blame for an investigation that took on new life after he rejected the advice of lawyers and everyone he knew to participate in an incriminating documentary about his apparent bad luck of having people close to him go missing or get knocked off.

Durst was arrested in 2015 while hiding out in a New Orleans hotel on the eve of the airing of the final episode of 'úThe Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst,'Ě in which he was confronted with incriminating evidence and made what prosecutors said was a confession.

Durst could be heard muttering to himself on a live microphone in a bathroom: 'úThere it is. You're caught.'Ě

Lewin credited filmmakers Andrew Jarecki and Marc Smerling with getting the case rolling.

'úWithout them having conducted the interviews we wouldn't be where we are,'Ě Lewin said. 'úThat was the starting point, no question.'Ě

The verdict gives 'úsome justice'Ě to the family of Kathie Durst, Jarecki said in a statement, "as Kathie's murder will now likely also be prosecuted.'Ě

Durst's decision to testify in his own defense - hoping for a repeat of his acquittal in the Texas killing - backfired as he was forced to admit lying under oath, made damning admissions and had his credibility destroyed when questioned for nine days by Lewin.

'úThere has never been a defendant that I'm aware of that has perjured himself so may times about so many different things in such a short period of time,'Ě Lewin said. 'úIt was absolutely shocking.'Ě

The story of Durst, the estranged scion of a New York real estate developer, has been fodder for New York tabloids since his wife vanished. He provided plot twists so numerous that Hollywood couldn't resist making a feature film about his life that eventually led to the documentary and discovery of new evidence in Berman's slaying.

Durst ran from the law multiple times, disguised as a mute woman in Texas and staying under an alias at a New Orleans hotel with a shoulders-to-head latex mask for a presumed getaway. He jumped bail in Texas and was arrested after shoplifting a chicken sandwich in Pennsylvania, despite having $37,000 in cash - along with two handguns - in his rental car.

He later quipped he was 'úthe worst fugitive the world has ever met.'Ě

Durst escaped close scrutiny from investigators when his wife disappeared. But his troubles resurfaced in late 2000 when New York authorities reopened the case and his lawyer told him to be prepared to be charged in the case.

He fled a life of luxury to Galveston, Texas, where he rented a cheap apartment as 'úDorothy Ciner,'Ě a woman he pretended couldn't speak. He eventually dropped the disguise after mishaps that included igniting his wig at a bar while lighting a cigarette.

Just before Christmas, he traveled to LA to visit Berman for a 'ústaycation'Ě with plans to see some of the tourist sites, Durst testified. He found Berman dead on a bedroom floor when he arrived.

Berman, a writer who had been friends with Durst since they were students at the University of California, Los Angeles, had serious financial problems at the time. Durst had given her $50,000, and prosecutors suggested she was trying to leverage more money from him by telling him she was going to speak with the cops.

Nine months after her death, Durst killed Black. Durst said he came home to find Black, a friend, in his apartment holding Durst's .22-caliber pistol.

Durst was acquitted after testifying the 71-year-old was killed in a struggle for the gun. Durst then chopped up Black's body and tossed it out to sea. He was convicted of destroying evidence for discarding the body parts.

After the trial and the ghastly evidence of the dismemberment, Durst said he became a pariah. Despite an estimated $100 million fortune, he was turned away by multiple condominium associations and said the Los Angeles County Museum of Art wouldn't take his money unless he donated anonymously.

Durst thought a 2010 feature film Jarecki made based on his life, 'úAll Good Things,'Ě starring Ryan Gosling as him and Kirsten Dunst as Kathie, had been largely accurate and painted a sympathetic portrait, despite implicating him in three killings. He only objected that he was depicted killing his dog - something he would never do.

He reached out to the filmmaker and agreed to sit for lengthy interviews for a documentary. He encouraged his friends to do the same and gave the filmmakers access to boxes of his records.

He came to deeply regret his decision after 'úThe Jinx'Ě aired on HBO in 2015, calling it a 'úvery, very, very big mistake.'Ě

The documentary filmmakers discovered a crucial piece of evidence that connected him to an anonymous note sent to police directing them to Berman's lifeless body.

Durst, who was so confident he couldn't be connected to the note, told filmmakers 'úonly the killer could have written'Ě the note.

When filmmakers confronted him with a letter he sent Berman a year earlier - with identical handwriting and Beverly Hills misspelled as 'úBeverley'Ě on both - he couldn't tell them apart.

The gotcha moment provided the climax of the movie as Durst stepped off camera and muttered to himself on a live microphone in the bathroom: 'úKilled them all, of course.'Ě

During 14 days of testimony that was so punishing Judge Mark Windham called it 'údevastating,'Ě Durst denied killing his wife and Berman, though he said he would lie if he did.

He was forced to admit for the first time that he had written the note and had been in LA around the time of Berman's death.

Lewin said jurors told him they didn't believe Durst's explanations for the note or the apparent confession during an unguarded moment.

Durst claimed the hot mic didn't catch his full thought, which he said was: 'úThey'll all think I killed them all, of course.'Ě

That's exactly what the jury concluded, Lewin said.

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