Robert Durst: Judge to rule if evidence from old cases can be used in new murder trial

L.A. prosecutors argue the cases, including another killing and a disappearance, are "inextricably intertwined" and the part of "a common design and plan."
Susan Berman and Robert Durst
Susan Berman and Robert DurstSareb Kaufman

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By Andrew Blankstein

New York real estate scion Robert Durst has been linked to the killing of his wife, his neighbor and his close friend Susan Berman.

On Tuesday, a Los Angeles judge will hold a hearing to determine whether prosecutors can introduce evidence from all three cases when he goes on trial for the execution-style murder of Berman.

Berman, 55, was found shot to death in her home outside Beverly Hills on Christmas Eve 2000.

Prosecutors allege Durst killed his former confidante because he feared she would tell police about his involvement in the disappearance of his first wife, Kathie Durst. She vanished in 1982 and has never been found.

Durst, 75, has pleaded not guilty in the Berman killing and has denied any knowledge of his wife's disappearance.

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Robert Durst attends a motions hearing on capital murder charges in the death of Susan Berman with attorney Dick DeGuerin in Los Angeles on Jan. 6, 2017.Mark Boster / Reuters pool file

The subject of the HBO documentary series "The Jinx," Durst was acquitted after arguing self defense in the 2001 killing of his Texas neighbor, Morris Black, whose body parts were found wrapped in garbage bags and floating in Galveston Bay.

Durst was cleared after claiming that Black pulled a gun on him, setting off a struggle that resulted in the weapon accidentally discharging and striking the victim in the head.

Durst has never been charged in connection with his wife's disappearance.

In a series of motions filed in recent weeks, Los Angeles Deputy District Attorney John Lewin argued that he should be permitted to tell the Berman jury about the two other cases because they are all "inextricably intertwined" and the "product of a common design and plan."

The defense team, led by high-profile attorney Dick DeGuerin, argued in court papers that established law bars California prosecutors from using evidence from an acquittal in a separate murder case.

DeGuerin's team also said the Black case is "wholly unrelated" to Berman's, and accused prosecutors of trying to prove Durst "is predisposed to commit homicides by half proving up as many of them as they can."

In court papers filed last Friday, Lewin said prosecutors want to bring the evidence to show the jury that "Susan's and Morris' murders were directly related to, and were the result of, Defendant having killed his missing wife."

Lewin also argues that his office was not involved in the Black case, which eliminates any legal basis for denying evidence related to his killing.

In October, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Mark Windham ruled there was enough evidence to proceed with a trial. Windham made the decision after hearing testimony from two friends of Kathie Durst, two former New York Post reporters who interviewed Durst after his wife went missing, interviews conducted by "Jinx" filmmakers Andrew Jarecki and Marc Smerling, as well as evidence from prosecutors and police.