Though infamous defendant Robert Durst, 78, is only on trial for murdering friend Susan Berman, 55, two other deaths are inextricably linked to his case. That played out in bizarre fashion on Monday when Durst’s attorneys used the courtroom floor to reenact their client’s version of how he killed neighbor Morris Black, 73, in 2001.
Perhaps it is natural that audience members giggled at the sight of lawyer Dick DeGuerin (as Durst) and co-counsel David Chesnoff (as Black) playing out the struggle. As Durst previously testified in his 2003 trial in Texas, he claimed that Black took Durst’s gun from its storage place in the oven. Black pointed the gun at him, he said. This sparked a struggle over the gun. They tripped and fell. The gun went off, striking Black in the head, according to this version of events.
Jurors in Texas ultimately acquitted Durst of murdering Black, but they did find him of guilty of dismembering Black’s body. Authorities never found Black’s head. DeGuerin represented Durst at that trial.
Quite a few in the courtroom found amusement from the grim reenactment on Monday.
“This is my favorite part of the whole trial so far,” said Judge Mark Windham, among other jokes.
“I know who to root for here,” said prosecutor John Lewin.
Windham asked Durst, who has cancer and is wheelchair-bound, if the reenactment was accurate.
“That’s a full-service law firm,” the defendant said.
It was a surreal, darkly comic moment in a trial that sketched out a saga of death. Prosecutors say Durst, fearing Susan Berman would step forward with the truth, shot and killed Berman at her Beverly Hills home in 2000 because she helped him cover up the murder of wife Kathleen McCormack Durst in 1982. Kathie Durst vanished without a trace and Robert Durst has never been charged in her disappearance (Kathie was declared dead in 2017).
Durst admitted during testimony on Monday that he wrote the so-called cadaver note that was sent to police after he found Berman shot dead at her home. Durst said he did not know who killed Berman. The letter cryptically had Berman’s Beverly Hills address and the word “cadaver” on it; the person who wrote the note misspelled Beverly as “Beverley.” Durst spent years insisting he did not do it, going as far as to insist that only Berman’s killer could have written the note. He changed his story after his attorneys failed to undermine a handwriting analyst’s determination that Durst actually wrote the letter.
To hear him tell it on Monday, Durst said he lied about the note for years because it was hard to be believe he wrote the letter but did not kill Berman.
“Because it is a difficult thing to believe,” Durst said, referring to his claim that he wrote it but was not the killer. “I mean, I have difficulty believing it myself.”
Durst has given a similar account for why dismembered the body of Morris Black. He insisted he cut up the man’s body because no one would believe he killed him in self-defense, he testified in 2003, according to The New York Times.
[Screenshot of Chesnoff (left) and DeGuerin via Law&Crime Network]
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