Robert Durst will face life in prison without parole after being found guilty last month for first-degree murder.
On Thursday, Durst, 78, was convicted by a jury in September for shooting Susan Berman, 55, in her home in 2000 in Beverly Hills. She was believed to be preparing to speak to investigators about the disappearance of Durst’s first wife Kathleen McCormack Durst. McCormack Durst had disappeared and was last seen in 1982.
Both sides delivered their closing arguments on Thursday. The trial began in early 2020 right before the pandemic and was paused after two weeks. It resumed in May 2021 with the same jury.
Durst was the focus of the six-part HBO documentary “The Jinx,” which covered the three accusations of murder for which he was never convicted. Toward the end of the series, Durst is shown going into a bathroom and made comments without realizing he was being recorded with a mic still on. It seemed to be a confession.
The “bathroom confession” featured in the documentary proves his guilt in an independent way, Judge Mark Windham said on Thursday.
The New York real estate heir has been on trial for months leading up to Thursday’s sentencing. He denied killing both women, saying that he found Berman on her bedroom floor with a gunshot to her head. Her body was never found, and no suspect was ever charged for her death. During cross-examination, prosecutors pushed Durst to admit he would perjure himself if he had killed them.
Durst has been in poor health in recent years, having bladder cancer and undergoing multiple surgeries. He had a shunt inserted into his head to help with pressure on his brain. Durst was also in quarantine in jail due to COVID measures during this time.
Jurors agreed this crime met “special circumstances” under California law, which allows for a sentence to life without parole for the murder of a witness to a crime. There is a moratorium on the death penalty in the state.
In 2003, Durst confessed to police that he killed his neighbor Morris Black back in Galveston, Texas, two years prior. He said he shot the man and dismembered him in an attempt to steal his identity and escape inquiries into his wife’s murder, according to prosecutors. During the testimony, however, Durst called it self-defense. He was ultimately acquitted.