After the prosecution and defense rested their cases in the murder trial of millionaire Robert Durst, the judge Thursday began looking into how a television station obtained hundreds of photographs gathered as evidence in the dismemberment case.
KHOU OF HOUSTON aired some of the photos Wednesday night and said it planned to use more in future broadcasts. Some of the photos were deemed too gruesome for television, the station said.
State District Judge Susan Criss said she saw the report and thought, “Oh my God, how could this happen?” the Houston Chronicle reported on its Web site Thursday.
The person who sold the photographs probably will face criminal charges, Criss said Thursday. She said she had previously ordered that no copies be made of photographs used as evidence in the trial.
Criss scheduled closing arguments for next Wednesday in the trial of Durst, a New York real estate fortune heir accused of intentionally killing his 71-year-old neighbor, Morris Black, in September 2001.
Durst, who spent nearly four days testifying, claims Black was accidentally shot as the two struggled for a gun. He acknowledges dismembering and then disposing of the body in Galveston Bay.
Prosecutors and defense attorneys denied leaking the photographs to the station when questioned by Criss, who said only police, prosecutors and defense attorneys had access to the evidence.
‘NOT A LOT OF MONEY’
KHOU news director Mike Devlin declined to say who sold the station the photos or how much the station paid for them. “It is not a lot of money,” he said.
Devlin said the station obtained a CD containing between 800 and 900 images and discussed with the source how many of the images would be used. Most of the images are the same ones viewed by jurors during the course of the trial, which began in September, he said.
Durst, 60, whose family runs The Durst Organization, a privately held billion-dollar New York company, faces from five to 99 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000 if convicted.
Besides Durst, defense attorneys called three people to the stand to bolster their client’s claim that Black had a volatile temper and had threatened to kill others.
Durst testified that he arrived in Galveston in November 2000 disguised as a mute woman to escape media scrutiny in New York after the investigation into his first wife’s 1982 disappearance was reopened. He told jurors he came to the island city planning never to use his real name again. He later dropped the masquerade.
After disposing of the body parts, Durst fled to New Orleans, but later returned to Galveston and was arrested. He posted bond and then became a fugitive for six weeks before his recapture in Pennsylvania.
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