Robert Durst, who was the subject of HBO's 2015 documentary The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst, was convicted in the 2000 killing of Susan Berman, a friend who prosecutors said helped Durst cover up the disappearance and death of Durst's first wife, Kathie, in 1982. Durst, 78, was convicted of first-degree murder and could be sentenced to life in prison. The judge will sentence him at a later date.
The trial started in March 2020, but was delayed for 14 months because of the coronavirus pandemic, reports The New York Times. It resumed in May, and prosecutors called 80 witnesses and showed the jury almost 300 exhibits. In his opening statement, Los Angeles County District Attorney John Lewin told the jury that some of the most incriminating evidence came from Durst's jailhouse phone calls that were featured in The Jinx.
Durst only faced a charge connected with Berman's death, but prosecutors said it was connected to the disappearance of Kathie and the killing of a drifter, Morris Black, whom Durst befriended in 2001. Durst became friends with Black when he lived in Galveston, Texas to avoid authorities. In 2003, Durst was acquitted of killing Black. Durst was never charged in connection with Kathie's disappearance and death, despite investigations in New York State. During his latest trial, prosecutors said Berman helped Durst avoid authorities.
Prosecutors also showed the judge evidence that Durst was at Berman's house in December 2000, although Durst long denied being in Los Angeles when she died. Prosecutors also included an anonymous note telling Los Angeles police about a "cadaver" at Berman's home, which Durst denied writing. His attorneys questioned document examiners who said Durst wrote the note. During her testimony, Emily Altman, another friend of Durst's, told Lewin that Durst told her he was in Los Angeles when Berman died. Before the trial began, Durst's attorneys did admit Durst wrote that anonymous letter, but they insisted that prosecutors didn't have enough evidence.
Nick Chavin, another friend of Durst's, gave testimony for the prosecution that also didn't help Durst. In December 2014, Chavin met Durst in New York to talk about Berman and Kathie, Chavin claimed. When he asked Durst what he wanted to say about Berman, Durst replied, "It was her or me. I had no choice," Chavin claimed. Prosecutors repeated that line during their closing arguments.
Kathie McCormack Durst went missing in 1982. In The Jinx, Durst appeared to admit to killing her. "You're caught... What the hell did I do? Killed them all, of course," he said. Durst later claimed he was high on meth when he made the confession. Kathie's family filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Durst, but Durst beat the lawsuit in 2019 because the judge said Kathie's family waited too long to file the lawsuit. Prosecutors believed Durst killed Berman because she knew details about Kathie's disappearance and death.