Jury selection set to begin in murder trial of Robert Durst

FILE PHOTO: Robert Durst attends a motions hearing on capital murder charges in the death of Susan Berman in Los Angeles, California, U.S. January 6, 2017. (REUTERS/Mark Boster/Pool)


Jury selection was due to begin on Wednesday in the Los Angeles murder trial of Robert Durst, the elderly New York real estate scion whose arrest prosecutors say was hastened by his confession to multiple killings in the 2015 TV documentary “The Jinx.”

Durst, 76, is charged with the December 2000 murder of his long-time confidant, Susan Berman, a writer he is accused of shooting to death because of what she might have known about the unsolved disappearance and presumed killing of his wife two decades earlier.

The trial is likely to run several months. Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Mark Windham plans to seat 12 jurors and 12 alternates in a selection process that could last the better part of two weeks.

Opening statements are not expected until the week of March 2.

Berman, 55, was found slain execution-style in her Beverly Hills home a couple of months after police in New York were reported to have reopened an investigation into the fate of Durst’s spouse, Kathleen, who was a medical student when she vanished in 1982.

Durst, the multi-millionaire grandson of a Manhattan real estate magnate, has pleaded not guilty to the Berman murder. He has been questioned by investigators about his wife while insisting he had nothing to do with her disappearance. He has never been prosecuted in that probe.

The circumstances surrounding both cases, as well as Durst’s 2003 acquittal in the killing and dismemberment of a Texas neighbor, gained wide attention in the popular six-part HBO documentary series “The Jinx” nearly five years ago.

Durst was arrested on suspicion of Berman’s murder in March 2015, one day before the airing of the final installment of “The Jinx,” in which Durst seemed to incriminate himself after being confronted with key piece evidence in the episode.

He was captured by microphone after the interview muttering off-camera to himself: “There it is, you’re caught,” and “What the hell did I do? Killed them all, of course.”

In court papers filed months later, prosecutors said they had moved quickly to secure Durst’s arrest upon learning he had “confessed to killing multiple people” in the documentary and might try to run once “The Jinx” finale was broadcast.

Durst told authorities shortly after his arrest that he smoked marijuana daily and was under the influence of methamphetamine during his interview for “The Jinx.”

One item of physical evidence expected from prosecutors is an anonymous handwritten note mailed to the Beverly Hills Police Department containing Berman’s address and the word “cadaver” and post-marked one day before her body was found.

Prosecutors have suggested in court papers that Durst, after killing Berman, had sent the note hoping her body would be discovered soon enough for the Jewish writer to receive a swift burial in keeping with her faith.

The note and envelope misspelled Beverly Hills as “Beverley Hills” – a quirk that figured prominently in “The Jinx” after filmmakers obtained another envelope they said Durst had sent Berman with the same erroneous “Beverley” misspelling.

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