LOS ANGELES – The bitterly contested murder trial of Robert Durst spanned the better part of two years. His sentence would be comparatively brief and there could be a lack of fireworks between the chief prosecutor and the defense counsel.
The eccentric New York real estate heir faces a mandatory term of life in prison without parole on Thursday for the first-degree murder of his best friend, Susan Berman.
Loyola Law School professor Laurie Levenson said, “Now that the jury has found out, the sentence is pretty clear.” “I’m not sure there’s much left to say (the prosecutor).”
Durst, 78, was convicted last month in Los Angeles Superior Court for the Berman point-blank shooting in the back of the head at his Los Angeles home just before Christmas 2000.
The trial began in March 2020 and was adjourned for 14 months as the coronavirus pandemic engulfed the US and courts were closed. It resumed in May with the jury reaching its verdict on 17 September.
Berman, the daughter of a Las Vegas mobster, was Durst’s longtime confidant, who was preparing to tell police that he provided a fake excuse for her after his wife disappeared in New York in 1982.
Kathy Durst was never found. Robert Durst was never charged with a crime related to his disappearance.
But following his conviction in Berman’s death, which relies on evidence that he killed his wife, a New York prosecutor is now set to bring charges against him in his death, a person familiar with the matter said, who did not wish to be named. told the Associated Press on condition.
Durst testified in the LA case, denying that he killed his wife or Berman, but said he would have lied if he had done so.
Cathy McCormack Durst’s family was expected to present a statement in court Thursday about her loss, but prosecutors denied the request, according to an email sent to her attorney.
Attorney Robert Abrams said the McCormack family was disappointed, and he was outraged. He said the family members would not participate in the sentencing.
“The family isn’t going to travel 3,000 miles to be a prop in some Hollywood production and sit there and make their victim impact statement,” Abrams said. “It’s not some film where it’s a gross spectacle. It’s their life, 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 doubtful whether Cathy Durst was a victim in the Los Angeles case because Robert Durst was not charged with her murder. Allowing your siblings to speak when sentencing would create another point for appeal.
Defense lawyers planned to argue for a new trial on Thursday, saying there was insufficient evidence to prove the case and the judge listed 15 ways.
The motion primarily preserves issues for appeal and is likely to fail, Levenson said, although some of his claims could get the attention of a higher court.
The defense said that when the jury was sent home and the case was adjourned, Judge Mark Windham should have declared a wrongful trial. He said the delay period was unprecedented.
Several other issues revolve around admitting evidence, such as allowing prosecutors to testify that Durst killed a neighbor in Galveston, Texas in 2001 by dismembering his body and dumping the parts into the sea. Gave. Durst was acquitted of murder after testifying that Morris Black had pointed a gun at him and was killed in a gunfight.
He also objected to testimony and demonstrations, which showed that when Durst was arrested in New Orleans in 2015, he had a mask in his hotel room, fake identification, drugs, $40,000 in cash and a loaded There was a handgun.
He also objected to jurors showing a feature film and six-part documentary, “The Jinx: The Life and Crimes of Robert Durst”, based on Durst’s life.
To limit the number of appellate issues, prosecutors can be more restrained in the presentation of their sentences, Levenson said, especially when prison terms are already set.
Deputy District Attorney John Levine was asked by a reporter after the conviction what he had to say to Durst.
Levine, who was aggressive and often ended up with defense attorney Dick DeGuerin in the six years from arrest to conviction, initially said he had nothing to say to the person he had been dealing with for years. was following.
He then called Durst a “narcissistic psychopath” who “killed his wife and … had to keep killing to cover it up.”
“He’s 78. He’s been walking around for a long time,” Levine said. “He had too much life, you know, Cathy didn’t make 30. On balance, looking at what she’s done, she’s got a lot more life than she deserved.”
Associated Press writer Michael R. Sisak contributed to this report.