Will a hot mic lead to jail time for real estate tycoon, Robert Durst? On Thursday, October 25th, a Los Angeles judge ordered the star of the HBO docuseries The Jinx to stand trial for the December 2000 murder of his friend Susan Berman. In the final episode of the 2015 series, Durst was caught mumbling what Judge Mark Windham called “a succinct confession” to several murders, unaware that his mic was still on. Following a two-day hearing, Windham ruled that Durst’s statement, “What the hell did I do? Killed them all, of course,” along with other evidence and testimony presented by prosecutors warranted sending the case to trial, against the objection of Durst’s attorneys, who argued that no fingerprints or DNA link Durst to Berman’s death.
Durst was arrested in connection with Berman’s death the same day that The Jinx’s final episode aired in March 2015. He’s accused of shooting Berman in the head at her Beverly Hills home on December 23rd, 2000, just hours before she was scheduled to speak with the police about the 1982 disappearance of Durst’s first wife, Kathleen McCormack, whom many suspect him of killing, though a body has never been found. Police quietly reopened the investigation into McCormack’s disappearance in 1999, which became public knowledge in November 2000. Judge Windham also ruled that previous statements made by Berman about helping Durst with his “alibi related to [Kathleen]” were admissible in court. Durst denies killing Berman or having anything to do with his wife’s disappearance.
This isn’t the first time Durst has been charged with murder. As detailed in The Jinx, in 2001, Durst was arrested and charged with killing and dismembering his elderly neighbor, Morris Black, in Galveston, Texas, a crime he ultimately admitted to, but claimed was committed in self-defense. Durst moved to Galveston shortly after Berman’s murder, and began dressing as a woman to evade the authorities reinvestigating McCormack’s disappearance. After he was released from jail following his arrest for Black’s killing, Durst skipped a mandatory court date, and an arrest warrant was issued for bail jumping. He was apprehended at a Wegman’s grocery store in Pennsylvania, where he attempted to shoplift a chicken salad sandwich on pumpernickel bread, Band-Aids and a newspaper.
At his trial in 2003, Durst testified that Black took his own .22 caliber pistol and threatened him with it; they struggled, Durst said, and the gun went off, fatally shooting Black in the face. He admitted to using a paring knife, two saws and an axe to dismember the victim’s body before dumping the remains in the Galveston Bay. But Black’s head was never recovered, leaving the prosecution without forensic evidence to dispute Durst’s account, and as a result, he was acquitted on the murder charge. Later, he took a plea deal for jumping bail and evidence tampering, and ultimately served three years in prison.
According to the BBC, during this week’s hearing in the Berman case, Durst frequently interrupted the proceedings, and at one point, spontaneously headed to the exit in his wheelchair, telling the court to “have a good weekend.” He’ll be back in court for his arraignment on November 8th, and is facing life in prison without the possibility of parole.