US real estate heir Durst guilty of murder | Canberra weather

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A California jury found multi-millionaire real estate heir Robert Durst guilty of murdering his best friend Susan Berman in 2000, the first homicide conviction against a man suspected of killing three people in three states in the past 39 years. Durst, 78, will likely die in prison, as the jury also found him guilty of the special circumstances of waiting and murdering a witness, carrying a mandatory life sentence. Superior Court Judge Mark Windham has set a sentencing hearing for October 18. The jury deliberated for about seven hours over three days. Durst was not present for the verdict as he was in isolation after being exposed to COVID-19 in prison. Los Angeles prosecutors called Durst a “narcissistic psychopath” who killed Berman in an attempt to cover up the disappearance of his wife, Kathleen McCormack Durst, in New York City in 1982. Durst was on trial only for killing Berman in California, but prosecutors argued he murdered three people: his missing wife, Berman and a neighbor in Texas who discovered his identity when Durst was in hiding from the law. Although he has long been a suspect in the disappearance of his wife, a 29-year-old medical student, Durst has never been charged. Prosecutors said he killed her, then decided to kill Berman 18 years later because she told others she helped Durst cover up the crime. Defense lawyers described Durst, a frail cancer survivor, as a “sick old man” and notorious prosecutors, who cross-examined him for nine days, were unable to produce forensic evidence linking Durst in the murder of Berman, 55, who was shot in the back of his head in his Beverly Hills home. The trial took place six years after Durst’s apparent confession in the HBO documentary series The Jinx, in which Durst was caught by a burning microphone saying to himself, “What did I do? … Killed them all, of course. In a trial spanning a year and a half, in part because of the pandemic, prosecutors presented circumstantial evidence pointing to Durst, who testified to discovering Berman’s murdered body when he visited him but did not called the police. The prosecution also looked into the 2001 death and dismemberment of Morris Black, who was Durst’s neighbor in Galveston, Texas. A Galveston jury acquitted Durst of the murder, although Durst admitted he cut up Black’s body and dumped it in Galveston Bay. In Texas, and again at the Los Angeles trial, Durst said Black shot him and was accidentally shot when the men fought over the gun in Durst’s apartment. California prosecutors argued that Durst murdered Black because Black found out Durst’s identity, and Durst feared Black would hand him over. At the time, Durst was using an assumed name and posing as a mute woman because he feared he would be arrested by New York investigators who had reopened his missing wife’s case. Upon Black and Berman’s deaths, Durst said he first tried calling 911, but then decided not to, fearing that no one would believe he was not guilty. Durst testified from a wheelchair. His voice weakened by esophageal cancer, he sounded different from the confident man in The Jinx. The defense tried to cast doubt on the “killed them all” audio by claiming that it had been altered. Durst said the mic failed to record it saying “They’ll all think me” before saying “Killed them all”. Durst is the grandson of Joseph Durst and the son of Seymour Durst, who made The Durst Organization one of New York’s premier real estate companies. Durst left the company a long time ago, now run by his estranged brother, Douglas Durst, who testified at trial and said of his brother: “He would like to murder me.” Associated Australian Press


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Robert Valdivia

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