Durst slay trial de­layed till April due to virus fear

New York Daily News - - NEWS - BY NANCY DIL­LON

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.

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