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Robert Durst, millionaire who was focus of HBO documentary 'The Jinx,' found guilty of first-degree murder

Durst, 78, took the stand in his defense during the sensational trial in Los Angeles County Superior Court.

Posted: Sep 17, 2021 4:51 PM
Updated: Sep 17, 2021 4:54 PM

By Cheri Mossburg, CNN

(CNN) -- A Los Angeles jury found Robert Durst, the notorious subject of the HBO series "The Jinx," guilty of first-degree murder for the killing of his best friend, Susan Berman, more than 20 years ago.

Durst has been charged with the first-degree murder of Berman in 2000 at her Beverly Hills home, hours before she was set to talk to investigators about the mysterious disappearance of his first wife, Kathleen McCormack Durst, who was last seen in 1982.

McCormack Durst was declared legally dead in 2017. Her body has not been found and no one has been charged in the case.

Durst, 78, took the stand in his defense during the sensational trial in Los Angeles County Superior Court. He denied killing Berman and said he found her on the floor of her bedroom with a fatal gunshot to the back of the head.

Durst's testimony spanned three weeks, with much of the cross examination devolving into contentious sparring with lead prosecutor John Lewin.

Prosecutors allege Durst shot Berman in the head. They said Durst confided to Berman he had killed Kathleen, and she helped him cover his tracks.

On the stand, Durst denied murdering his first wife and, later, Berman. But under cross examination, Durst testified he would perjure himself if he had killed them. Lewin prompted Durst to admit he perjured himself five times during the trial, which resumed in May after a 14-month delay due to the pandemic.

One key piece of evidence was the so-called "cadaver" note, a cryptic letter sent to police with Berman's address and the word "cadaver" in caps that led detectives to her body.

In the 2015 HBO documentary "The Jinx," Durst said the letter could have been sent only by Berman's killer. Defense lawyers had previously denied Durst wrote the note, and they unsuccessfully tried to exclude from trial handwriting evidence about it.

Filmmakers confronted Durst with another letter he once mailed Berman, with nearly identical handwriting to the "cadaver" note. In both, Beverly Hills was misspelled as "BEVERLEY."

In a court filing, lawyers for the real estate mogul late last year reversed course and acknowledged Durst penned the anonymous note. "This does not change the fact that Bob Durst did not kill Susan Berman," defense Attorney Dick DeGuerin said at the time.

This is a developing story and will be updated.

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