Nov. 11 -- A millionaire fugitive never denied killing his next-door neighbor, yet a Texas jury found him not guilty of murder. NBC’s Jim Cummins reports.
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updated 11/13/2003 6:58:22 AM ET 2003-11-13T11:58:22

The case of millionaire Robert Durst may provide some answers.

Durst admits to chopping up his friend, Morris Black’s body, and then dumping it. For weeks he used disguises and aliases to evade the authorities. He was also being investigated in the disappearance of his wife-and jurors believe Durst lied to them repeatedly on the witness stand.

When you ask them how they could have found him not guilty, they sound more like law students. They talk about reasonable doubt and the prosecution not surviving its burden to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that it was murder.

When you get past these accurate legal terms, what they’re really doing is creating an impossible standard. Durst’s lawyers say Durst shot Mr. Black in self-defense and then panicked, tried to cover it up. The only evidence of that-Durst’s own testimony, which jurors say they dismissed because they did not find him credible.

Essentially they’re saying “Well, the prosecution can’t prove it was murder either. We just know that Durst was there, Black is dead, and now in pieces.” That’s because Durst cleaned the crime scene and dumped the body. That is all except the head, but he’s not saying where that is-the one piece of evidence that could provide all of the answers.

Many of the jurors point out the defense presented one theory and stuck with it, while the prosecutor’s theory seemed to change. Well that’s a nice piece of Court TV analysis, but says nothing about whether this was murder. Another juror said she didn’t know you could prosecute a case without the head. This feels like an O.J. like jury where they became so caught in the minutia that they lost sight of the big picture. As well-intentioned as they may be, if jurors are going to say we refuse to draw any inferences and essentially I think refuse to use common sense, then a lot of murderers are going to be walking free in this country.

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