Witnesses fearful in wealthy heir Durst's
L.A. murder case: prosecutor
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[December 22, 2016]
By Alex Dobuzinskis
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Witnesses expected
to testify in the Los Angeles murder trial of real estate scion Robert
Durst are concerned for their safety, a prosecutor told a judge on
Wednesday, citing the heir's vast wealth and the deaths of people close
Durst, 73, whose ties to several slayings were chronicled last year in
the HBO documentary "The Jinx," is charged with fatally shooting writer
and longtime confidante Susan Berman in December 2000.
Prosecutors say he killed her because of what she knew about the death
of Durst's wife in New York two decades earlier.
Durst, who appeared on Wednesday in Los Angeles County Superior Court in
a wheelchair wearing a blue shirt and glasses with his hair cropped
short, pleaded not guilty last month to first-degree murder in the
Deputy District Attorney John Lewin asked Judge Mark Windham to schedule
a conditional hearing for February to record witness testimony, ahead of
trial, saying witnesses "understandably are concerned about their
He said witnesses are concerned because Durst is accused of killing
Berman over what she knew about his wife's disappearance. They are also
worried about the killing and dismemberment of a Texas neighbor of
Durst, whom Lewin called "a witness." Durst was acquitted of murder in
Lewin told the court the real estate heir has some $100 million in
The prosecutor said among those he hopes to testify is an 85-year-old
doctor and another unnamed witness who Lewin said could "disappear, die,
An attorney for Durst, David Chesnoff, rejected the argument that Durst,
wheelchair-bound and incarcerated, poses any threat to witnesses,
calling the remarks "hyperbole."
Windham did not rule on the proposed condition examination hearing to
speed up testimony.
He did, however, grant prosecutors' request that an independent expert
be appointed to examine crates of Durst-related documents confiscated by
investigators and determine which papers should be excluded as material
protected under attorney-client privilege.
[to top of second column]
Robert Durst attends his arraignment on capital murder charges in
the death of Susan Berman, in Los Angeles, California, U.S. on
November 7, 2016. REUTERS/Kevork Djansezian/File Photo
Windham also said he would hold a hearing on the question of whether
Durst waived his right to attorney-client privilege over materials
seized from Durst's friend in New York State.
Berman, 55, was found dead in her Los Angeles home, reportedly shot
execution style, not long after police in New York reopened their
investigation into the 1982 disappearance and presumed killing of
Durst's wife, Kathleen.
Durst was questioned but never charged in that probe.
After the hearing, defense attorney Dick DeGuerin told reporters
that "Bob Durst didn't kill Susan Berman, doesn't know who did, and
we are ready to get down the road for a trial."
Durst was formally charged with the Berman murder a day after HBO
aired the final episode of "The Jinx," in which Durst was recorded
muttering to himself off-camera: "What the hell did I do? Killed
them all, of course."
Durst told authorities after his arrest that he smoked marijuana
daily and was high on methamphetamine during his appearance on "The
Jinx," according to court records.
(The story changes day to Wednesday from Tuesday in the first
(Writing by Eric M. Johnson; Editing by Cynthia Osterman and Steve
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