Real estate scion Robert Durst loses bid to have his murder trial tossed out due to three-month delay because of coronavirus pandemic
- A Los Angeles judge denied Robert Durst’s request for a mistrial on Tuesday
- Durst argued that long delay had compromised his right to a fair trial
- Murder trial was put on hold just days after it began in March
- Durst, 77, is on trial in the killing of his best friend, Susan Berman, in 2000
- Here’s how to help people impacted by Covid-19
A Los Angeles judge denied a request for a mistrial Tuesday in the murder case against New York real estate heir Robert Durst after a three-month delay from the coronavirus outbreak.
Judge Mark Windham said Durst’s right to a fair trial has not been compromised by putting the case on hold in March just days after it began.
It is scheduled to resume in July in an Inglewood courthouse that has a larger courtroom to accommodate social distancing.
Defense attorney David Chesnoff argued by phone that Durst would not be able to get adequate legal representation because he and two other members of his legal team have been told by doctors not to appear in court because of the virus.
Attorneys for Robert Durst (pictured in court on March 4) have asked a Los Angeles judge to declare a mistrial in the case that was put on hold mid-trial because of coronavirus closures
He also argued that jurors, court staff, prosecutors and spectators could be exposed to the virus in the courtroom, restrooms, elevators and cafeteria.
Deputy District Attorney John Lewin said the defense was making a strategic move because Durst wants a ‘do over.’
Windham noted that it took months to whittle 1,000 prospective jurors down to 23, including 11 alternates.
Durst, 77, is on trial in the killing of his best friend, Susan Berman, who was shot in her home in 2000.
He has denied any role in her death, but his lawyers acknowledged he sent a note with the word ‘cadaver’ written on it directing police to her body.
Prosecutors allege he killed Berman because he feared she was going to tell New York police that she knew he had killed his wife in 1982 and helped him cover up the crime.
Durst is on trial for the December 2000 murder of his best friend Susan Berman (left)
The body of Kathleen Durst has never been found, though she has been legally declared dead.
Durst has never been charged with any crime related to her disappearance and has denied any role in her death.
Berman was killed just days before she was to give an interview to New York investigators looking into Kathleen’s disappearance.
Durst’s defense lawyer told the jury in March that his client found her body, ‘panicked,’ and wrote an anonymous note to the police, which included Berman’s address and the word ‘cadaver,’ leading them to his friend’s home.
Berman was shot dead just days before she was set to be interviewed about the 1982 disappearance of Durst’s first wife, Kathleen (pictured on their wedding day). Kathleen’s disappearance is still unsolved
In 2003, Durst was acquitted in Texas of the murder of his neighbor Morris Black, whom he admitted to dismembering after shooting him in self-defense during a struggle inside the Galveston apartment they shared.
The trial had been in the works for five years, since Durst’s arrest on the eve of the airing of the final episode of The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst.
The HBO documentary included interviews with Durst that helped lead to the charges against him.
In one pivotal scene, Durst was overheard mumbling to himself, ‘Killed them all, of course.’