Murder trial of Robert Durst begins with jury selection

Feb. 19 (UPI) -- The long-awaited murder trial of real estate heir Robert Durst began Wednesday in Los Angeles with jury selection.

Durst faces one count of murder in the 2000 execution-style death of Susan Berman. He allegedly killed Berman to prevent her from revealing information about the 1982 disappearance of Durst's first wife Kathleen. Her body was never found, and although Durst was investigated, he was never charged. Durst was arrested for Berman's death in 2015, the day after the last installment of a documentary television program, "The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst" appeared on HBO.


Berman, a journalist and daughter of Las Vegas mobster David Berman, was a longtime friend of Robert Durst. She served as a "false alibi," court papers say, by claiming to be Kathleen Durst in a telephone call days before Robert Durst notified police of his missing wife. The alibi supported his account that she disappeared while traveling to New York City. Prosecutors allege he shot Berman in the back of the head at her California home.

Durst has maintained his innocence and wrote in 2016 of his eagerness for the trial to begin "to prove I didn't kill Susan Berman." He escaped the media frenzy by traveling to Galveston, Texas, disguising himself as an elderly woman and living in a rundown apartment. After striking up a friendship with a neighbor, Morris Black, Durst shot Black to death, admitting to the shooting but contending the two men struggled over a gun. Durst also admitted putting pieces of Black's body into trash bags and dumping them in the Gulf of Mexico. He was acquitted after a trial.


The trial beginning Wednesday is expected to last at least five months. Durst will be represented by Texas-based attorneys DickDeGuerin and Chip Lewis, who defended him in the 2003 case, and Las Vegas attorney David Chesnoff, whose former clients include Lindsay Lohan, Paris Hilton and other high-profile celebrities. Interviews with Durst, seen in the HBO documentary, are expected to be entered as key evidence.

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