INGLEWOOD (CNS) - The judge in Robert Durst's murder trial told jurors today that testimony is set to wrap up Wednesday, with the panel expected to start hearing closing arguments from attorneys by the middle of next week.
“All of the evidence will be concluded on Wednesday,'' Superior Court Judge Mark E. Windham told the jury, which heard a 12th day of testimony from Durst.
The 78-year-old defendant -- who is due back on the stand Tuesday for more questioning -- has denied being involved in the December 2000 shooting death of his longtime friend and confidante, Susan Berman, at her Benedict Canyon home. But Durst told jurors that he wrote a “cadaver'' note to alert police about her body after arriving at her house to find her dead inside.
Once testimony in the case is done, jurors will have nearly a week off before returning to court Sept. 8 for the beginning of closing arguments, which are expected to be completed by noon Sept. 14, Windham told the panel.
“So, you will begin deliberation on Tuesday the 14th,'' the judge said.
In testimony last week, Durst said he initially thought Berman had fainted when he saw the 55-year-old writer on the floor of her bedroom. Durst said he lifted her up by her arms and then dropped her after realizing there was a puddle of liquid around her head.
He said he had no idea how long she had been dead and unsuccessfully tried to use one of her land-line telephones to call 911, but found it to be inoperable.
Durst testified earlier that he sent an anonymous “cadaver'' note to police notifying about them about the body after driving to a pay phone to make a 911 call and realizing that his voice would be recognized even if he gave a fake name.
In an updated opening statement when the trial resumed in May after being stalled for more than a year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Deputy District Attorney John Lewin told jurors that the evidence would show Durst shot and killed Berman “out of survival'' because he feared she would tell authorities about his involvement in the disappearance of his first wife.
The prosecutor called the cases of Kathie Durst and Susan Berman “interrelated,'' and told jurors they would hear evidence that Durst killed his spouse and used Berman to help cover up his part in the crime, and that he subsequently had to kill his neighbor, Morris Black, in Galveston, Texas, in 2001, because Black figured out who Durst was and was putting pressure on him.
Durst was acquitted in Texas of Black's murder and has testified that the gun accidentally went off during a struggle over the weapon. He acknowledged dismembering the man's body, but told jurors that he “never wanted to accept I dismembered a human being.''
Durst's lead attorney, Dick DeGuerin, said his client showed up at Berman's home and “panicked'' after finding her dead.
“Bob Durst did not kill Susan Berman and he does not know who did,'' DeGuerin said in May.
DeGuerin disputed the prosecution's contention that Berman made a phone call posing as Kathie Durst after she disappeared, and called Berman a “storyteller'' who had a “great imagination'' and “made things up.''
Durst has been behind bars since March 14, 2015, when he was taken into custody in a New Orleans hotel room hours before the airing of the final episode of the six-part HBO series, “The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst,'' which examined Kathie Durst's disappearance and the killings of Berman and Black.
Durst testified earlier that a bathroom recording of him in which he said, “There it is, you're caught,'' referred to the cadaver note. He had been confronted by Jarecki about the cadaver note and two envelopes addressed to Berman and acknowledged that it was pretty obvious that the handwriting was the same, even though he had denied for years that he had written the note to police.
When asked what he meant by his recorded comment “killed them all, of course'' that was shown during the series, Durst said, “What I did not say out loud or perhaps I said very softly, `They'll all think I killed them all, of course.'''
He testified that he has talked to himself since he was a little boy.
“It seems I talk to myself about my thoughts, so some of what I'm thinking I do not say out loud,'' Durst testified.
Durst has been long estranged from his real estate-rich family, which is known for ownership of a series of New York City skyscrapers -- including an investment in the World Trade Center.
Durst split with the family when his younger brother was placed in charge of the family business, leading to a drawn-out legal battle, and ultimately reached a settlement under which the family reportedly paid him $60 million to $65 million.
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