The Los Angeles prosecutor who spent eight years pursuing Robert Durst before convincing a jury the eccentric millionaire murdered his best friend Susan Berman says it’s “absurd” to suggest the technicality that will posthumously void Durst’s conviction is a victory.
Durst died Monday at age 78, four months after he was convicted of killing Berman execution-style in December 2000. Because he died with his appeal still pending, California law dictates his conviction must be vacated.
“It’s basic law. If your conviction is not final when you die, your conviction is never going to be final,” Durst’s lead lawyer Dick DeGuerin told Rolling Stone. “The appeal is now dead. It’s over. We’ll never have an answer to it, legally.”
DeGuerin, who said his client was suffering from a litany of health woes including bladder cancer, confirmed that Durst filed his notice of appeal and was “in the process of arranging for an appellate lawyer when he died.”
“He’s had a very tough, tortured existence the last decade. Being in jail and being so ill, I didn’t think he was going to survive the trial. He shouldn’t have been tried in his condition,” DeGuerin said.
Deputy District Attorney John Lewin, who prosecuted the case in California, said while it’s true “Durst will not stand convicted of murder,” he’s adamant “the only reason for that is because he died.”
“The evidence is what the evidence is,” he said after convincing 12 jurors that Durst murdered Berman because he wanted to guarantee her silence after she helped him cover his tracks in the 1982 disappearance of his first wife, Kathie Durst.
“I think we demonstrated beyond any reasonable doubt that he murdered Susan Berman, that he did it because she was a witness to his killing of Kathie Durst and that he murdered [his Texas neighbor] Morris Black. And I think that any idea that somehow this mitigates or lessens Bob Durst’s culpability is absurd,” Lewin said.
Beyond vacating his California conviction, Durst’s death on Monday means he’ll no longer face trial in New York’s Westchester County following his Nov. 1 indictment on charges he murdered Kathie.
One well-placed source tells Rolling Stone that Kathie’s family is disappointed the trial won’t happen but still hopeful more details about Kathie’s fate will come to light — even if Durst took her final resting place to his grave.
“I think the family is realistic. Even if [they] had a general area of where she was at, or even exactly where she was at, it’s been 40 years in the ground. At this point, it’s not necessarily as important,” the source said. “Her body parts, at this point, would be so severely decomposed.”
Westchester County DA Miriam Rocah said Monday she empathized with Kathie’s remaining relatives.
“After 40 years spent seeking justice for her death, I know how upsetting this news must be for Kathleen Durst’s family,” Westchester DA Miriam E. Rocah said in a statement Monday. “We had hoped to allow them the opportunity to see Mr. Durst finally face charges for Kathleen’s murder because we know that all families never stop wanting closure, justice and accountability.”
Her office said it planned “to make further information surrounding this case available to the public, to the extent allowed by law, at a press conference in the coming days.”
A lawyer for Kathie’s siblings, meanwhile, said the family was planning a separate press conference for Jan. 31.
“Although Robert Durst has died, the ongoing investigation into those who helped him cover up her murder continues. On January 31, 2022, the 40th anniversary of Kathie’s murder, we will provide a further update. In the interim, please say a prayer for Kathie and his other victims,” lawyer Bob Abrams said.
In March of 2019, Kathie’s sister Carol Bamonte filed a wrongful death complaint in New York alleging Durst killed Kathie because she planned to explore his family’s business dealings. The lawsuit claimed Durst covered up the murder with help from his “crime family.” It singled out Durst’s father Seymour, other Durst Organization representatives, and even Berman with claims they interfered with the investigation by telling police Kathie had a “$1,000-a-week drug habit” and was flunking out of school. The suit was thrown out because the statute of limitations had expired.
Lewin said Monday that he does not believe Durst had any accomplices.
“I’m 100 percent confident that Bob Durst killed Kathie Durst alone, that Bob Durst alone got rid of her body and that Bob Durst alone killed Susan Berman,” he told Rolling Stone. “Any idea or any accusations that other people were involved in committing this crime or in helping Bob get rid of bodies, or in setting up murders, there’s not one iota of evidence that I’ve examined to support it.”