LOS ANGELES (CNS) - Sentencing has been pushed up to Oct. 14 for New York real estate heir Robert Durst, who was convicted last week of murdering a longtime friend and confidante in her Benedict Canyon home just over two decades ago, court officials announced today.
Durst is facing life in prison without the possibility of parole for the December 2000 killing of Susan Berman, who was shot in the back of the head just before Christmas Eve 2000.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Mark E. Windham had initially set sentencing for Oct. 18 for Durst after the 78-year-old defendant was convicted last Friday of first-degree murder. No reason was given for the change in sentencing date.
Jurors also found true the special-circumstance allegations of murder while lying in wait and murder of a witness, along with allegations that Durst personally used and discharged a firearm during the commission of the crime.
Durst spent 14 days on the stand and repeatedly denied being involved in Berman's killing, and testified that he wrote a so-called “cadaver'' letter to police after finding Berman's body while using a key she had sent him to enter her house.
The prosecution argued that Durst shot Berman and then his neighbor, Morris Black, in Galveston, Texas, nine months later -- in the head because each of them had damaging information against him and feared they would speak to authorities after a re-investigation was launched into the 1982 disappearance of his first wife, Kathleen “Kathie'' Durst, whose body has never been found.
Durst has denied any involvement in his first wife's disappearance, and was acquitted in Texas of Black's murder after testifying that the gun went off during a struggle over the weapon.
One of Durst's attorneys, David Chesnoff, told jurors that the prosecution had “not proven that Bob Durst killed Susan Berman beyond a reasonable doubt,'' while Deputy District Attorney Habib Balian told jurors that the killing was “planned'' and “premeditated,'' and that “Susan knew her killer and let him into the house'' before being shot in the back of the head when she turned her back.
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 documentary series “The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst,'' which examined the disappearance of Kathie Durst and the shooting deaths of Berman and Black.
During his time on the stand, the defendant told jurors that a bathroom recording of him shown in the series in which he said, “There it is, you're caught,'' referred to the cadaver note he ultimately admitted writing.
Durst had been confronted by Andrew Jarecki -- director and co-producer of “The Jinx'' -- 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 about Berman's body.
Durst has since admitted that he wrote the letter.
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.'''
After last Friday's verdict, Kathie Durst's family issued a statement in which they said, “Today, more than ever before, it is clear that she was murdered by Robert Durst in Westchester County, New York, on January 31, 1982. The evidence is overwhelming. Although Durst has now been rightly convicted of killing Susan Berman, who helped him conceal the truth about Kathie's death, the McCormack family is still waiting for justice. Kathie is still waiting for justice.
“The justice system in Los Angeles has finally served the Berman family. It is now time for Westchester to do the same for the McCormack family and charge Durst for the murder of his wife, Kathie, which occurred almost 40 years ago. They have had interviews, statements and documents for months,'' the family said in its statement.
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.
He 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 in which the family reportedly paid him $60 million to $65 million.
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