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Robert Durst sentenced to life in prison for murder of friend

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Robert Durst sentenced to life in prison for murder of friend

Nearly four decades after the sudden disappearance of his wife, a cloud of suspicion that would make his case one of the most notorious in the country, Robert A. Durst was sentenced Thursday to life in prison for the execution-style murder of a close friend in 2000. confidant

Mr. Durst, 78, whose life story inspired a Hollywood film and an HBO documentary, will not be eligible for parole. The jury last month pleaded guilty to first-degree murder in Los Angeles after prosecutors proved special circumstances: namely, that Mr. Durst shot Susan Berman, a journalist and screenwriter, as he feared. That she would tell investigators what she had learned as her liaison with the news media following the disappearance of his first wife, Cathy McCormack Durst, in 1982.

For the first time since hearings resumed in May, the courtroom was packed on Thursday, with most jurors in attendance.

Mr Durst, who lay in a wheelchair, wore a brown jailhouse jumper and surgical mask. He did not address the judge, and because of the difficulty of his hearing, he saw a tablet displaying the words spoken in court.

Ms. Berman’s cousin, Denny Marcus, said during four victim-impact statements given to the judge: “I was robbed, and my handsome son was robbed, an absolutely exceptionally talented man whose life was savagely taken.” had gone.”

Another cousin of Ms. Berman, Dave Berman, burst into tears, saying: “I met her and told her she could rest, justice has been done.” He said Mr. Durst should be told where Ms. Durst’s body was so that her family could find something.

Judge Mark E. Windham called Ms. Berman’s death the murder of a witness and “a horrific crime” that also “deprives the McCormack family of justice”. Before sentencing, he denied the defense’s request for a new trial, citing “overwhelming evidence of the crime”. The defense is expected to appeal.

Since his wife disappeared without a trace, Mr. Durst, born into a family whose Manhattan real estate empire is worth nearly $8 billion today, has led an enduring existence. He moved between New York, California and Texas, where he went on trial in 2003 for the murder and denial of Morris Black, a man who lived near him at the Galveston Rooming House where Mr. Durst was posing as a mute woman. .

Mr. Durst claimed self-defense, and a jury acquitted Mr. Morris despite his testimony about him lying in a pool of blood while carving his body.

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Ms. Berman, who had been a close friend of Mr. Durst for many years, was found dead on Christmas Eve in 2000 at her home on the edge of Beverly Hills. After neighbors saw their two dogs running free, the police were called and they were found. Back door opened. Ms. Burman was shot in the back of the head; There were no signs of forced entry, and his purse was untouched.

“I think she was in love with Bobby,” Dave Berman said in an interview before sentencing. Ms. Berman had met Mr. Durst, he said, when she was in journalism school in California. “She gave it to him at her wedding. There are more pictures of her hugging Bobby than of her and her husband.”

Even after Mr Durst was sentenced on Thursday, the investigation into his wife’s disappearance was once again progressing.

Miriam E. Rokah, district attorney in Westchester County, NY, where the couple lived in 1982, announced this year that her office had reopened the case. Prosecutors are interviewing witnesses and are expected to seek an indictment of first-degree murder from a grand jury in the coming week.

This can be a challenge as there are no witnesses, weapons, fingerprints or bodies.

Mr Durst has admitted in the past that he was a “bad husband”, but has always insisted that he did not kill his wife. He continued to deny involvement in Ms Burman’s death.

He could still be a free man if he didn’t speak out against all the advice of his lawyers and talk about both cases, providing investigators with traces of bread crumbs. He gave 20 hours of interviews containing several hurtful admissions to the producers of the 2015 HBO documentary series “The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst.” (The producer of the documentary had previously directed a film, “All Good Things”, which starred Ryan Gosling as a character based on Mr. Durst.)

After being arrested in New Orleans in 2015 and charged with murdering Ms. Berman, Mr. Durst interviewed the Los Angeles Deputy District Attorney, John Levine, for nearly three hours. The talkative Mr. Durst is also on record over hundreds of prison phone calls, not making secure statements that prosecutors used against him in court.

Trials began in March 2020, just before the coronavirus pandemic brought life across the US to a halt. When testimony was due to resume in May, defense lawyers called the 14-month delay the longest adjournment by a single jury in US history.

After weeks of testimony, the jury deliberated for nearly seven-and-a-half hours before convicting Mr. Durst last month. He was not in the courtroom for the verdict; He was in quarantine, officials said, after coming in contact with someone who had tested positive for coronavirus.

Following the verdict, his wife’s family issued a statement demanding a trial in Mr. Durst’s disappearance as well. “Cathy,” he wrote, “still awaits justice.”

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