Robert Durst, the notorious millionaire real estate heir and subject of HBO docuseries “The Jinx,” was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for the murder of his longtime friend Susan Berman.
During the sentencing hearing, the victim’s son, Sareb Kaufman described his mother as an “eccentric, vivacious and generous to a fault. Often needy and phobic, a force of nature, but extremely smart and witty." Deni Marcus, lifelong friend, said Berman was an “absolutely extraordinary unforgettable, brilliant person whose life was tragically taken from her.”
Durst, who is afflicted with bladder cancer and other physical ailments, appeared even more frail-looking during today’s hearing, slumped down in his wheelchair, wearing a medical mask, with the back of his hair standing up like he had been in bed. He offered no statement to the court prior to his sentence being handed down.
How we got here: A Los Angeles jury convicted Durst of committing the 2000 murder, which prosecutors proved was Durst’s way of preventing Berman from telling police about his role in the 1982 disappearance of his first wife, Kathleen McCormack Durst. Berman was scheduled to meet with police the day after she was killed. To this day, her body has never been found.
“By telling where Kathie is, perhaps you can find some small redemption in an act of humanity,” Berman’s son urged Durst. “You didn't just murder Kathie, or Morris [Black], or Susan, you also murdered me and murdered the person I was — all his dreams and all his hopes, gone.”
Judge Mark Windham began the hearing by denying a defense motion for a new trial by laying out at least five ways Durst’s guilt was proven beyond a reasonable doubt, including his comments to trial witness Nick Chavin, the infamous “cadaver note” that Durst admitted to writing, and Durst’s pursuit of a plea bargain.
Durst, resting back in his wheelchair, kept his eyes on an iPad showing a transcript of the judge’s words as Windham handed down sentence. A restitution hearing will be held at a later date.
The sensational murder trial, which initially began in March 2020, was postponed for more than a year after just two weeks of testimony due to the Covid-19 pandemic. After resuming in May, testimony was frequently delayed and trudged on for more than 15 weeks.
Durst spent 15 days on the stand testifying in his own defense.
A number of jurors attended the sentencing, with one telling CNN, “It’s been a long two years.” They declined to comment further.
Andrew Jarecki, producer of HBO’s “The Jinx,” also attended. An audio recording from the series in which Durst could be heard muttering off camera “killed them all, of course,” was another key piece of evidence presented to jurors.
Durst’s defense attorneys plan to file an appeal.