The judge in the case said he’s committed to resuming trial this week.
LOS ANGELES (CN) — Jurors in the murder trial against New York real estate scion Robert Durst returned to a Los Angeles County courtroom Monday, more than a year after the Covid-19 pandemic upended the case. Durst, however, was a no-show.
Police arrested Durst in 2015 for the 2000 murder of his friend Susan Berman who was shot and killed in her California home. On the day of his arrest, the final episode in the six-part HBO documentary series “The Jinx” — which told of Durst’s life story and his possible connection to the death of three people, including his first wife — aired in which Durst muttered to himself on a hot mic that he had “killed them all.”
Over 15 months ago, prosecutors began to make their case against the New York multimillionaire and described Durst as an abusive husband. Jurors listened to testimony from nine witnesses out of a possible 120 planned by the prosecution before. Then the pandemic stalled nearly all jury trials across the country, including Durst’s.
But on Monday, over 20 years after Berman’s murder, the trial was supposed to resume at last. Then Durst refused to get on the jail transport to the court, according to LA County Superior Court Judge Mark Windham.
Despite Durst’s absence, Windham denied Durst’s motion to continue the trial and to be granted bail. His attorneys had asked Windham to release Durst so he could be treated at a hospital for bladder cancer and other health issues.
In an emergency motion filed May 12, Durst’s attorney said their client cannot physically sit through the trial while in custody due to his health problems. The motion includes a report from a medical expert who said Durst will receive better care on bail than what he is currently receiving while in jail.
But Windham said the defense presented its omnibus motion just two court days before trial was set to resume
“We have jurors coming in about 10 minutes,” Windham said. “I’m going to welcome them.”
Durst’s attorney Dick Deguerin persisted.
“The question isn’t if he can endure the rigors of a trial but whether he can survive it all,” said Deguerin.
Prosecutor John Lewin accused the defense of leaking the emergency motion to the media and called news reports that the county is “letting Bob Durst die” misleading. He noted resident physicians treat Durst at a teaching hospital and Durst lives in a jail medical unit while awaiting trial.
While Durst, 78, could probably afford the best care from the best physicians in the world, Lewin said, “Unfortunately, he has been charged with capital murder,” Lewin said.
Windham repeatedly raised his hand to try and get the attorneys’ attention while they excoriated the other side. He expects to question the jury Tuesday and resume the trial later in the week.
Durst’s arc to trial involves a litany of twists and turns that date back to his wife’s disappearance in 1982. Kathleen McCormack was last seen with Durst in Newtown, Connecticut. Her body was never found, but Durst remains a suspect.
In 2001, police arrested Durst in Galveston, Texas, for the killing and dismemberment of his neighbor Morris Black. Durst said he and Black got into a confrontation when Durst’s handgun went off and shot Black in the face. Durst admitted to using a paring knife, two saws and an ax to dismember Black’s body. He then dumped the remains into Galveston Bay.
A jury acquitted Durst in 2003 because Black’s head was never recovered and prosecutors could not present a case to dispute Durst’s story about the struggle.