Robert Durst Defense Hits Speed Bump in Lead-Up to Murder Trial

The defense hit a speed bump in a preliminary hearing for murder suspect Robert Durst, 76. The long and short of it is that, as the situation stands, his attorneys cannot suggest a specific alternate suspect in his upcoming trial for the 2000 murder of friend Susan Berman, 55.

Authorities say the defendant killed his friend Berman in December 2000 by shooting her in the back of the head. Ugly allegations trailed Durst for years. His wife Kathleen Durst disappeared in 1982. He allegedly abused her during their relationship, and didn’t report her missing until five days later. In fact, the alleged motive behind Berman’s death is that she perhaps knew something about Kathleen’s disappearance.

Prosecutor John Lewin brought up at the hearing that the defense wanted to discuss another man as a possible suspect, but he argued that they didn’t reach the standard under case law.

“They can always argue that Bob Durst didn’t do it,” he said. “They can always argue somebody else did it. They cannot put on specific evidence that any other person did it unless and until–and the court has already said, and put a deadline of today–for submitting that motion, so that third-party culpability has sailed.”

“I don’t necessarily agree it has sailed, your honor,” defense lawyer David Chesnoff said.

The attorneys argued back and forth about the matter in an often testy exchange, but Superior Court Judge Mark E. Windham pointed out that the defense’s hasn’t satisfied the case law at this point.

“I’m not going to stop any party from presenting their fifth motion for reconsideration, but after the first denial, it becomes increasingly futile, so I’ve excluded it,” he said.

The other man in question–identified in court as Nyle Brenner–was Berman’s manager. One of the victim’s friends Richard Mackey testified in 2017 that Berman had a rocky relationship with him, and that he had at first suspected Brenner in the killing. Brennar has been on the defense’s radar for years. Police did initially eye him in the killing, but never accused him of it.

Durst was profiled in docuseries The Jinx. He was famously caught on a live mic while using the bathroom. Audio showed him apparently admitting to murder.

“What the hell did I do? Killed them all, of course,” he was depicted as saying.

His defense said this year that the statement was edited out of order. Here’s what he said in the transcript, according to The New York Times [emphasis ours]:

[Untelligible.] I don’t know what you expected to get. I don’t know what’s in the house. Oh, I want this. Killed them all, of course. [Unintelligible.] I want to do something new. There’s nothing new about that. [Inaudible – possibly “disaster.”] He was right. I was wrong. The burping. I’m having difficulty with the question. What the hell did I do?

Durst was acquitted in 2003 of murdering neighbor Morris Black although he admitted to cutting up the victim’s body. His defense at trial argued he killed the man in self-defense while fighting with him over a gun.

The next hearing in the Berman case is set for December 10.

[Image via Jae C. Hong-pool/Getty Images]

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Jerry Lambe is a journalist at Law&Crime. He is a graduate of Georgetown University and New York Law School and previously worked in financial securities compliance and Civil Rights employment law.

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