LOS ANGELES (CN) — Real estate scion Robert Durst pleaded not guilty to murder Monday in an LA case billed as one of the most highly anticipated in decades.
The 73-year-old, accused of the 2000 murder of his friend, journalist and author Susan Berman, appeared in court on Monday afternoon for arraignment. Durst was pushed into court in a wheelchair, a neck brace strapped around his neck. He was wearing large glasses and a blue and white striped shirt.
His attorneys entered the not guilty plea on his behalf. Durst said very little during the hearing except to confirm that he could hear Judge Mark Windham after his attorney Dick DeGuerin said that his client is hard of hearing, and to resolve an issue over court dates.
"I do want to say here now, though, I am not guilty. I did not kill Susan Berman," Durst said with a slight rasp.
Windham set a preliminary hearing for Feb. 15, 2017. Deputy District Attorney John Lewin said the state will not be seeking the death penalty. Windham said it is his intention for the case to be tried in his courtroom at the Airport Courthouse.
In one moment of intrigue, Lewin told the court that prosecutors had discovered boxes of "materials" at Durst's hotel room in New Orleans and his Houston home. Lewin asked a special master to review the contents and determine what is protected by the attorney-client privilege.
Durst is no stranger to the courtroom, having successfully persuaded a jury in Texas that he had acted in self-defense when he beheaded and dismembered his elderly neighbor Morris Black and dumped the remains in Galveston Bay.
The heir of New York real estate magnate Seymour Durst, the millionaire was a suspect in an investigation of his wife Kathie Durst's disappearance in 1982.
Prosecutors in Los Angeles have charged that Durst shot and killed Berman execution style in December 2000. One theory is that Durst silenced Berman because she had information about the disappearance of Kathie Durst.
DeGuerin, the defense attorney who won Durst the jaw-dropping acquittal in Texas, is back in the frame again representing his client.
Berman was found in her Benedict Canyon residence on Christmas Eve 2000.
Durst was charged in March 2015 with the cold-case first-degree murder with the special circumstances of the murder of a witness and lying in wait.
The FBI arrested Durst in New Orleans on the LA warrant, and he was charged and convicted after a firearm and marijuana were found in his hotel room. He was sentenced to seven years and one month in federal prison, delaying his arrival in Los Angeles until this past Friday.
The night after FBI agents arrested Durst in New Orleans, HBO aired the sixth and final episode of "The Jinx," a documentary series about the millionaire.
The makers of the series discovered that the handwriting in an anonymous note alerting authorities to a "cadaver" in Berman's residence matched the handwriting on the envelope of a letter that Durst had sent to Berman, including the misspelling of Beverly Hills as "Beverley Hills."
After Durst was confronted with this evidence on camera he retreated to the bathroom while his mic was still hot.
Durst said off-camera: "What did I do? I killed them all, of course."
A movie version of Durst's story, Andrew Jarecki's 2010 feature "All Good Things," depicted Kathie's disappearance and the events in Galveston.
In the movie, Ryan Gosling played the Durst-inspired protagonist David Marks.
Durst reportedly contacted Jarecki after seeing the movie and offered him the exclusive interviews that led to the making of the HBO series.
DeGuerin told reporters outside he was "happy" the case was moving forward.
"Bob is not guilty. He did not kill Susan Berman. He doesn't know who did and he's eager to go to trial," DeGuerin said.
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