Robert Durst has beaten the odds for 40 years – now he faces his last murder trial

www.theguardian.com
6 min read
fairly easy
The notorious heir and subject of The Jinx documentary is on trial for the murder of his friend and confidante Susan Berman
Robert Durst has been beating the odds for close to 40 years – escaping scrutiny for the disappearance of his first wife, going un-investigated for years for the cold-blooded murder of one of his best friends and, most startlingly, winning acquittal in a murder trial in Texas in which he admitted shooting the victim and dismembering the body with a bow saw and a paring knife.

But time, and luck, may be running out for the notorious black sheep of a high-profile New York real estate family.

Durst, now 78 and serving a long prison sentence, is facing one last murder trial where the evidence pointing to his guilt is not only compelling but has grown stronger since his dramatic cat-and-mouse arrest in a New Orleans hotel six years ago.

That trial, for the 2000 murder of his friend and confidante Susan Berman, restarted in Los Angeles this week after an unexpected 14-month hiatus brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic. Nobody is daring to call it a slam dunk – that's the phrase the Texas prosecutor used in the 2003 murder trial where Durst walked free.

But the alibi that Durst maintained for years – that he was hundreds of miles away at the time of the Berman killing – has collapsed. He has also admitted penning an anonymous letter alerting police to the dead body at Berman's home – a letter that, while Durst was still sticking to his alibi, he acknowledged could have been written only by the killer.

An old friend of both Durst's and Berman's, the former advertising executive Nick Chavin, is likely to be the prosecution's most powerful witness. Chavin says Durst confessed Berman's murder to him in 2014. Chavin's testimony is already on the record – taken in advance of the trial because prosecutors were worried what might happen to him if they waited. "It sounds ridiculous," Chavin said in 2017, "but yes, this was my best friend, who killed my other best friend."

John Lewin, the deputy district attorney, presents opening arguments in the murder trial of Robert Durst…
Andrew Gumbel
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