A jury on Friday provided some resolution to a murder that has made headlines for more than two decades.
Real estate heir Robert Durst, 78, was convicted in Los Angeles County, California, for murdering his longtime friend Susan Berman, Fox News reported.
Prosecutors make their case
The trial itself spanned well more than a year, in part due to COVID-19 restrictions and complications.
This week’s guilty verdict also marks the end of a series of investigations in which authorities have pursued Durst in connection to a trio of murders, including his wife, Kathie Durst.
Berman was shot in the back of her head at point-blank range in December 2000. According to Fox, prosecutors argued that Durst killed her because she planned to tell authorities that she provided a false alibi for him when his wife went missing in the 1980s.
Durst denied the charge and claimed Berman was already dead when he discovered her body.
Since prosecutors were attempting to establish the defendant’s motive, they were allowed to present evidence during the trial pointing to Durst as his wife’s killer. Kathie Durst has not been found, but her husband was never charged in connection to her disappearance.
Jurors reach their conclusion
Prosecutors were also permitted to provide evidence from a prior trial in which Durst was charged with killing a neighbor but ultimately acquitted.
According to reports, it took jurors just over seven hours — spread out over three days — to find him guilty of Berman’s death. Durst had reportedly been exposed to COVID-19 and was not present in the courtroom when his verdict was read.
The next step in the case will be sentencing, which is set for Oct. 18. He faces a mandatory term of life behind bars without parole for the first-degree murder conviction.
For their part, Durst’s defense team attempted to use his age and apparent frail health to gain sympathy with the jury. It seems likely that they will follow the same playbook in the upcoming sentencing hearing — but since it clearly did not work during the trial itself, it remains to be seen whether Durst will receive any leniency.
It is worth noting that Durst’s own remarks during filming for a 2015 documentary were widely considered a confession and led prosecutors to build a case against him.