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Robert Durst Receives Life Without Parole

Real estate heir had been convicted for killing best friend more than 20 years ago
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Sep 18, 2021 5:30 AM CDT
Updated Oct 14, 2021 5:55 PM CDT
Robert Durst Found Guilty of Murder
In this Sept. 8, 2021, file photo, Robert Durst is seen in a courtroom in Inglewood, Calif.   (Al Seib/Los Angeles Times via AP, Pool, File)

(Newser) Update: Susan Berman was "an extraordinary human being," Los Angeles Country Judge Mark Windham said Thursday. Then he sentenced Robert Durst to life in prison without parole for her murder, CNN reports. "I personally wish I could have known her," the judge said, adding that Berman's death "was a terrible loss to our community." California has a moratorium on the death penalty, but the jury found the slaying met the state's standard for "special circumstances," allowing Durst to be given life without parole. Durst was in the courtroom, wearing a medical mask and slumping in his wheelchair. Family members read victim statements. "I have not had one day off in almost 21 years from the absolute destruction and pain that this had caused me," said Berman's son, Sareb Kaufman. Our story from last month follows:

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A Los Angeles jury convicted Robert Durst on Friday of murdering his best friend 20 years ago, a case that took on new life after the New York real estate heir participated in a documentary that connected him to the slaying that was linked to his wife's 1982 disappearance. Durst, 78, wasn't in court for the verdict from the jury that deliberated about seven hours over three days. He was in isolation at a jail because he was exposed to someone with coronavirus, per the AP. Durst, who faces a mandatory term of life in prison without parole when sentenced Oct. 18, was convicted of the first-degree murder of Susan Berman. She was shot at point-blank range in the back of the head in her Los Angeles home in December 2000 as she was prepared to tell police how she helped cover up his wife's killing. Berman, the daughter of a Las Vegas mobster, was Durst's longtime confidant who told friends she'd provided a phony alibi for him after his wife vanished.

Durst was arrested in 2015 while hiding out in a New Orleans hotel on the eve of the airing of the final episode of The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst, in which he was confronted with incriminating evidence and made what prosecutors said was a confession. Durst could be heard muttering to himself on a live microphone in a bathroom: "There it is. You're caught" and "Killed them all, of course." Prosecutors painted a portrait of a rich narcissist who didn't think the laws applied to him and ruthlessly disposed of people who stood in his way. They interlaced evidence of Berman's killing with Kathie Durst's suspected death and the 2001 killing of a tenant in a Texas flophouse where Robert Durst holed up while on the run from New York authorities.

The conviction marks a victory for authorities who've sought to put Durst behind bars for murder in three states. Durst was never charged in the disappearance of his wife, who's never been found, and he was acquitted of murder in Galveston, Texas, where he admitted dismembering the victim's body and tossing it out to sea. "Bob Durst has been around a lot of years, and he's been able to commit a lot of horrific crimes. We just feel really gratified that he's been held accountable," Deputy District Attorney John Lewin said. Defense lawyer David Chesnoff said Friday his team believed there was "substantial reasonable doubt" and was disappointed in the verdict. He said Durst would pursue all avenues of appeal.

(Read more Robert Durst stories.)

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