LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) – Opening statements concluded Monday in the trial against New York real estate heir Robert Durst, who is accused of killing his longtime friend, Susan Berman, in 2000.
The defense is set to begin giving its opening statement Tuesday morning.
Durst, 76, is charged with murdering Berman in her Benedict Canyon home. Prosecutors told the jury Thursday that Berman was killed because she told Durst she was prepared to speak to New York investigators about the still unsolved disappearance of his wife, Kathie Durst.
In the second day of the prosecution’s opening statements, Deputy District Attorney John Lewin said Berman lied to Durst, telling him she had been contacted by and planned to speak with investigators looking into his wife’s 1982 disappearance.
That conversation “sealed her fate” and Durst “decided to kill her,” the prosecutor said. He told jurors that circumstantial evidence will show that Durst arrived at Berman’s house either late at night on Dec. 22, 2000, or early the following morning.
“He pulled out a 9 millimeter gun and… executed her,” Lewin said, noting that she was shot once in the back of the head and was “murdered by someone she truly trusted.”
Prosecutors told the eight-woman, four-man jury – along with 11 alternates – that they would also be hearing evidence that links Durst to the killing of his wife, but reminded them they are there to decide his involvement in only Berman’s killing.
The prosecutor told the panel that Durst “executed [Berman] at point-blank range” inside her home.
Kathie Durst – who had been the victim of domestic violence – was planning to divorce her husband but was never seen again after the two took a weekend trip to their lakeside cottage in South Salem, New York, according to Lewin.
The prosecutor said the evidence would show that Durst killed his wife, who had been set to begin a rotation at a pediatric clinic as part of her medical school training.
“Kathie never made it. That was February 1, 1982. It’s now been 38 years,” Lewin said. He told the jury there was no evidence that Durst had taken his wife to the train station to travel back to New York City, other than Durst’s account.
“It’s been long and it’s complicated because Mr. Durst has committed a lot of crimes,” Lewin said.
The jury has not yet heard from the defense, which is also expected to give a lengthy opening statement before what is expected to be months of testimony.
At an earlier court hearing, defense attorney David Chesnoff said there are no fingerprints, DNA, blood, hair samples or eyewitnesses linking Durst to the crime. Durst’s defense team has long insisted that he did not kill Berman and does not know who did.
Durst has been behind bars since March 14, 2015, when he was arrested in a New Orleans hotel room. He was indicted in April on a charge of being a felon in possession of a firearm.
He was previously tried and acquitted for the murder of 71-year-old drifter, Morris Black, who was living at the same small boarding house as Durst in Galveston, Texas, after he decided to go into hiding by disguising himself as a mute woman following the disappearance of his wife.
Durst was tried for Black’s death and dismemberment after a nationwide manhunt in which he was located in Pennsylvania, but a jury acquitted him of murder after agreeing with Durst’s contention that he had killed his neighbor in self-defense.
Lewin told the jury that Black became “the only person in Galveston who knew that Bob Durst was Bob Durst,” and called Black “a loose end” for the defendant, saying the prosecution intends to also show that Black’s murder was a calculated one rather than an act of self-defense.
Jurors are set to hear from Durst’s attorneys Tuesday. One person on his defense team said at an earlier court hearing that is no DNA, blood, hair samples, fingerprints or eyewitnesses that links Durst to the crime. Durst’s team has consistently denied that Durst had anything to do with Berman’s death, and that they don’t know who is responsible.
Durst’s past has been detailed in the HBO documentary series “The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst.” In the finale, Durst was caught on microphone muttering to himself, “Killed them all, of course,” and “There it is, you’re caught.”
He has been in custody since March 2015 and has been long-estranged from his real estate-rich family.
(© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. City News Service contributed to this report.)