LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) – The lead defense attorney for New York real heir Robert Durst, who is on trial for the 2000 killing of Susan Berman, told jurors Tuesday that Durst found the body of his longtime friend in her Benedict Canyon home after she had been killed.
“Bob Durst did not kill Susan Berman and he does not know who did. He did find her body shortly after someone had shot her in the head,” defense attorney Dick DeGuerin said.
He said Durst was coming to visit Berman for the holidays and panicked when he found her dead.
“Bob showed up and found her dead. He panicked,” DeGuerin said. He also told jurors that Durst wrote an anonymous “cadaver note” that was mailed to Beverly Hills police so her body would be found.
DeGuerin’s remarks were part of the first day of the defense’s opening statement, after the prosecution wrapped up its three-day opening statement on Monday. Opening statements ended Tuesday, and jurors are expected to begin hearing testimony Wednesday.
DeGuerin also told the jury that Durst will testify in his own defense during the trial.
Durst, 76, is charged with murdering Berman in her Benedict Canyon home.
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, Kathie Durst, in 1982.
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.
Prosecutors told the eight-woman, four-man jury – along with 11 alternates – that Durst killed Berman and Black to cover up information about the disappearance of Kathie and that evidence would show he killed her, too.
DeGuerin said that he and Chip Lewis, who is also on the Durst defense team, had represented Durst in the case in Galveston about 20 years ago.
“You haven’t heard the whole story yet,” DeGuerin told the jury.
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.”
DeGuerin told the jury that the HBO series was “heavily edited” and “not a documentary.”
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.
(© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. City News Service contributed to this report.)