Breaking News Emails
The dismemberment of Morris Black could come back to haunt Robert Durst.
Prosecutors hope to use the 2001 killing of Black in Texas as evidence against Durst when he goes on trial this summer for the 2000 slaying of his close friend Susan Berman in Los Angeles.
In a footnote to court papers filed Monday, they say both crimes were rooted in the same impulse: staying a step ahead of investigators looking into the 1982 disappearance of his wife Kathie.
Prosecutors said that after the Kathie Durst case was reopened in 2000, the real-estate scion embarked on an extraordinary journey to evade law-enforcement.
"This set off a series of Defendant's actions �— each an individual manifestation of his overall plan to escape justice for that crime — which included moving to Galveston, Texas, using a false identity, pretending to be a mute woman, structuring financial transactions to avoid reporting requirements, murdering Susan Berman in Los Angeles, and killing and dismembering the body of Morris Black in Galveston to avoid being discovered for having lived as a fugitive for 11 months," the Los Angeles district attorney's office wrote.
Durst's attorney, Dick DeGuerin, said his client was acquitted of Black's murder, and "it is the height of arrogance for the L.A. assistant district attorney to claim they can put him to trial again for the same thing."
Durst has denied killing his first wife, who is presumed dead, and he has not been charged in connection with her disappearance. He has pleaded not guilty to the murder of Berman, who was allegedly killed because she knew too much about Kathie Durst's vanishing.
The 73-year-old heir to a Manhattan real-estate fortune was tried in 2003 for the murder of Black, but jurors delivered a stunning acquittal after his lawyers argued he accidentally shot the elderly neighbor in self-defense and then cut up and dumped his body in a panic.
All three cases were the subject of the HBO documentary series "The Jinx," which concluded with Durst blurting out into a hot mic that he had "killed them all."
He was arrested in New Orleans as the final episode was set to air and later pleaded guilty to a federal gun possession charge that got him a seven-year prison sentence. He was extradited to California this fall to stand trial in Berman's death.
In a flurry of motions over the last several days, prosecutors and defense lawyers have begun a fierce fight over evidence in the case, with Durst's lawyers seeking to keep his personal papers and a videotaped interrogation out of the trial.
A transcript of the interrogation released last week revealed that Durst told prosecutors he was high on meth during the filming of "The Jinx" and couldn't give them details about what happened to Kathie Durst and Susan Berman because it would amount to "pleading guilty."
Durst, a cancer survivor with a host of other health problems, also disclosed that his life-expectancy is only about five years.