LOS ANGELES (CN) — Robert Durst all but confessed to murdering his dear friend Susan Berman on two occasions, a Los Angeles deputy district attorney told a Superior Court jury Monday.
Durst gave the near confession to the prosecutor himself during a long, recorded interview the day after his March 2015 arrest.
The other instance came the year before when a close friend of two asked Durst about Berman. He responded that he “didn’t have a choice” because “it was her or me.”
Durst, 76, the black-sheep scion of a New York real estate developer family worth billions, was charged with the first-degree murder of Berman five years ago this month. His trial for special-circumstances murder began Wednesday with the beginning of Deputy District Attorney John Lewin’s opening statement.
Lewin and his team maintain that Durst killed Berman to prevent her from revealing what she knew about the disappearance and presumed death of Durst’s wife, Kathleen McCormack Durst, in early 1982. Prosecutors say Durst killed his wife during a fight tied to their “nasty divorce” and that Berman helped him create a false narrative of when and where the 29-year-old fourth-year medical student was last seen.
Nine months after murdering Berman, he allegedly killed a neighbor. That man, Morris Black, had learned his true identity while Durst was hiding out in Galveston, Texas, disguised as a mute woman. He was acquitted of murder on self-defense grounds but was convicted of dismembering Black’s body and disposing of it in Galveston Bay. The head was never found.
Lewin told the eight-woman, four-man jury that he will prove all three murders in this trial because all three are connected. “When Bob Durst killed Kathie, he killed Susan and Morris as well, because once that happened, once he did that, there was no turning back,” he said.
Durst is someone who, “if you back him into a corner, he’ll kill you,” Lewin said later in his opening statement.
Durst was the subject of a widely watched HBO documentary series in 2015 called “The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst.” At the end of the sixth and final episode, Durst is heard muttering to himself on a hot microphone that he had “killed them all, of course.” At another point during the unwitting recording, he said, “There it is, you’re caught” and “What a disaster. What the hell did I do?”
Last week, at the end of the second full day of his opening statement, Lewin told the jury those statements are one of three confessions Durst made to his crimes.
On Monday, the prosecutor detailed two more. The first happened in 2014 when Durst asked out to dinner a close friend, Nick Chavin, to talk about Berman and Kathie Durst.
Lewin said Chavin will testify that at the end of the evening, as they were leaving the restaurant, Chavin asked Durst about Berman. Durst replied, “I had to. It was her or me. I had no choice.” When Chavin then asked about Kathie Durst, his old friend simply walked away without saying anything.
The third confession came during the bizarre interview Durst gave to Lewin the day after his arrest in New Orleans.
Lewin told the jury Monday that Durst all but confessed several times, by never objecting to statements that he had killed Berman or his missing wife. For instance, discussing a fictionalized movie about him called “All Good Things,” made by the producers of “The Jinx,” Durst objected to a scene in which his character kills his dog.
But he did not object to scenes in which the character, played by Ryan Gosling, kills his wife or friends. “That means the allegations of murder are true,” Lewin said.
Near the end of their nearly three-hour interview, “Durst in essence confessed to Kathie and Susan’s murders by admitting that he had details that he had not yet provided,” the prosecutor said.
In that portion of the interview, Lewin asks Durst if he knows things about those deaths that others do not. Durst responds by asking what Lewin could do for him if he were to plead guilty, such as regarding where he might go to prison.
“What would I ask for … if I pleaded guilty,” Durst said in a portion of the interview played in the courtroom.
“That exchange is crucially important because he is effectively admitting that he had the answers to those questions,” Lewin told the jury.
Also Monday, Lewin said Durst planned to kill his younger brother, Douglas Durst, who had supplanted Robert as head of the family’s real estate organization. Lewin played a recording of a phone call between the jailed Robert Durst and his second wife, Debrah Charatan, also a member of a family with major New York real estate holdings.
In the call, Durst complains that he had “screwed up” his plan to “Igor” someone referred to as BM. Lewin said that BM was code for Douglas Durst and that to “Igor” meant to kill.
Igor was the name Durst had given to several dogs he owned, all of whom died — as well as the name of the dog his character kills in the movie “All Good Things.” Douglas Durst has reportedly suggested that his older brother killed his dogs as practice, but Lewin insisted to the jury that Robert Durst loves dogs and never killed any.
Durst is not crazy, the prosecutor said. What he did “was immoral, illegal, homicidal, but it was not crazy.”
Superior Court Judge Mark E. Windham said two of Durst’s defense attorneys, Dick DeGuerin of Houston and David Z. Chesnoff of Las Vegas, will give an opening statement Tuesday. The trial is expected to last roughly five months.
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