Durst slay trial delayed till April due to virus fear
Millionaire murder suspect Robert Durst won’t go back before a jury until at least April of next year, a Los Angeles judge ruled Friday.
Durst, the subject of HBO’s “The Jinx,” started his expected four-month murder trial in southern California in March, but it was adjourned after only a handful of witnesses testified due to the virus crisis.
A plan to resume the trial July 27 was scrapped two weeks ago amid concerns over spiking COVID-19 infection rates in the Golden State.
Prosecutors proposed the nine-month delay at a July 17 hearing after defense lawyers argued the resumption of proceedings could put jurors, trial staff and their 77-year-old client at risk.
Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Mark Windham said he was willing to resume the trial earlier if Durst waived his right to a jury and let Windham decide the verdict. As expected, Durst rejected that idea after speaking with his lawyers sometime in the last two weeks.
The trial is now set to resume April 12, Windham ruled Friday at a hearing Durst did not attend in person.
A readiness hearing is set for March 12, the court said.
Durst, 77, has pleaded not guilty to the execution-style murder of his longtime friend Susan Berman inside her Los Angeles bungalow in December 2000.
Prosecutors claim Durst shot Berman in the back of her head at close range to keep her from speaking to New York prosecutors about his missing first wife, Kathie Durst.
Deputy District Attorney John Lewin told jurors in March that Durst was an abusive husband who killed Kathie at their home in South Salem, N.Y., to avoid a messy divorce in 1982.
Durst later drafted Berman to help cover his tracks and then murdered her 18 years later because he thought she was about to flip on him, Lewin said in his opening statement.
Jurors also heard Lewin describe the prosecution theory that it was “not an accident” when Durst shot and killed his Texas neighbor Morris Black in 2001.
A Texas jury acquitted Durst of Black’s murder after he claimed he shot Black in self-defense then decapitated and dismembered his neighbor in a panic before dumping the body parts in Galveston Bay.
Lewin told jurors that Durst actually killed Black to maintain his cover while hiding out after Berman’s murder.
Durst disguised himself as a mute woman named Dorothy Ciner while living on the lam in Galveston, Texas, and Black eventually discovered his true identity, Lewin argued.
Durst has maintained he did not kill Berman and has no idea what happened to Kathie.
In a bombshell admission before the Berman trial started, Durst stipulated through his lawyers that he did in fact send the infamous “cadaver note” that alerted authorities to her body.