Robert Durst testifies in his own murder trial
New York real estate heir Robert Durst took the witness stand in his own defense in a Los Angeles County court Monday – a move considered risky for a defendant in a murder trial.
Durst, 78, is charged with killing his best friend Susan Berman, who was shot and killed in her Benedict Canyon home in 2000. His attorneys have said Durst found her body, panicked, and fled.
Appearing frail and softspoken, Durst was wheeled over to an area next to the witness stand. His lead attorney, Dick DeGuerin, sat in front of him, and asked: “Bob, did you kill Susan Berman?”
“No,” Durst replied.
“Do you know who did?” DeGuerin asked.
“No, I do not,” Durst said.
Straining to speak, Durst described seeing “mommy on the roof” the night she fell to her death from his family home when he was 7 years old.
In this still image taken from the Law & Crime Network court video, real estate heir Robert Durst, right, describes what ailments he has to defense attorney Dick Deguerin during his murder trial in Los Angeles County Superior Court in Inglewood, Calif.
(Law & Crime Network via AP)
He said he didn’t know whether she jumped or fell. He described an unhappy childhood, recounting how he constantly ran away from home and school.
Durst, who has bladder cancer and other ailments that he listed from the stand, wore the brown jail attire he’s had on in court for the past few weeks of the trial. His attorneys said he’s been unable to stand to put on a suit. The judge has denied several requests for delays and a motion for a mistrial because of the health woes.
Durst testified while sitting in a wheelchair, and struggled to hear both the clerk when he was sworn in and DeGuerin as he asked questions, using a tablet that showed a live transcription to help him understand.
Durst struggled to hear the prosecution’s objections and the judge’s rulings on them, frequently speaking after he was told to stop.
Earlier, prosecutors resumed their cross-examination of the only other defense witness, false memory expert Elizabeth Loftus, to begin the day.
Durst was charged with killing his Galveston neighbor Morris Black while in hiding after Berman’s killing. He said Black was accidentally killed in a struggle after entering Durst’s apartment with a gun. He admitted to dismembering and disposing of Black’s body. The jury acquitted him of murder.
Durst was arrested in New Orleans on a warrant from Los Angeles in 2015. It happened on the eve of the airing of the final episode of the six-part HBO documentary series “The Jinx,” in which he made several seemingly damning statements about the killing.
His trial finally began in early 2020, but the coronavirus forced a pause of more than a year before it resumed in May.
Durst’s testimony is expected to last several days.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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