Durst faces day of reckoning in murder of best friend


LOS ANGELES (AP) — The bitterly fought murder trial of Robert Durst stretched over the better part of two years. His sentencing will be comparatively brief and could lack the fireworks that erupted between the lead prosecutor and defense lawyer.

The eccentric New York real estate heir faces a mandatory term of life in prison without parole Thursday for the first-degree murder of his best friend, Susan Berman.

“Now that the jury has found whodunnit, the punishment is quite clear,” Loyola Law School Professor Laurie Levenson said. “I’m not sure there’s a lot more left for (the prosecutor) to say.”

Durst, 78, was convicted last month in Los Angeles Superior Court of shooting Berman point-blank in the back of the head in her Los Angeles home just before Christmas 2000.

The trial began in March 2020 and was adjourned for 14 months as the coronavirus pandemic swept the U.S. and courts were closed. It resumed in May with the jury that reached its verdict Sept. 17.

Berman, the daughter of a Las Vegas mobster, was Durst’s longtime confidante who was preparing to tell police she provided a phony alibi for him after his wife vanished in New York in 1982.

Kathie Durst has never been found. Robert Durst has never been charged with a crime related to her disappearance.

But following his conviction in Berman’s death, which relied on evidence that he killed his wife, a New York prosecutor is prepared now to seek charges against him in her death, a person familiar with the matter told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.

Durst testified in the LA case, denying he killed his wife or Berman, but he said he’d lie if he had done so.

Kathie McCormack Durst’s family had hoped to present statements to the court Thursday about their loss, but prosecutors denied the request, according to emails sent to their lawyer.

Attorney Robert Abrams said the McCormack family was disappointed, and he was outraged. He said family members would not attend the sentencing.

“The family is not going to go travel 3,000 miles to be a prop in some Hollywood production and sit there and not be able to make their victim impact statements,” Abrams said. “This is not some movie where it’s gross spectacle. This is their lives, and they’ve suffered for 40 years.”

A spokesman for the district attorney’s office did not return a message seeking comment.

Levenson said it was questionable whether Kathie Durst was a victim in the Los Angeles case because Robert Durst wasn’t charged with her killing. Allowing her siblings to speak at sentencing would create another issue for an appeal.

Defense lawyers plan to argue for a new trial Thursday, saying there was insufficient evidence to prove the case and listing 15 ways the judge erred.

The motion is mainly to preserve issues for appeal and likely to fail, Levenson said, though some of their claims could get a…



Read MoreDurst faces day of reckoning in murder of best friend

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