Robert Durst Found Guilty in Murder Trial of Susan Berman

New York millionaire Robert Durst has been found guilty of the murder of his friend, Susan Berman, by a Los Angeles jury on Friday.

After months of testimony and about seven hours of deliberation over three days, a jury ruled that the 78-year-old real estate heir shot and killed Berman in 2000. Durst was arrested and charged with first-degree murder shortly after the release of a six-part HBO documentary, The Jinx, which examined his life and included an alleged confession.

Prosecutors argued that Durst shot Berman to prevent her from incriminating him in the disappearance of his first wife, Kathleen McCormack Durst, who went missing in 1982. Berman, 55, was found dead in Beverly Hills just one hour before she was scheduled to meet with the police.

Durst was also found guilty of special circumstances of lying in wait and killing a witness, which carries a mandatory life sentence.

The trial began in March 2020 but adjourned for 14 months as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. It resumed in May 2021 and concluded after three and a half months of testimony.

Prosecutors alleged that after Durst confessed to Berman that he killed his first wife, she helped him conceal the murder and didn't initially share what she knew with police.

Almost two decades later, Durst shot Berman execution-style at her California home to silence her. Nick Chavin, a key witness and a mutual friend of the pair, testified that Durst told him, "It was her or me, I had no choice."

"Those nine words sum up the entire case," prosecutor Habib Balian told jurors. LA County prosecutors also called Durst a "narcissistic psychopath."

robert durst found guilty
A judge found Robert Durst, shown here September 8, 2021, during closing arguments of his trial, guilty of the murder of Susan Berman on September 17, 2021. Al Seib/Getty

Durst denied killing both Kathleen and Berman and testified that he found Berman's body on the floor of her bedroom with a gunshot to the back of her head.

"Did you kill Susan Berman?" lead prosecutor John Lewin asked Durst on the stand according to court documents and reporting by CNN.

"No," Durst answered.

"But if you had, you'd lie about it, correct?" asked Lewin.

"Correct," Durst answered, admitting he would be willing to perjure himself in court and that he had done so at least five times during the trial, according to CNN.

Dick DeGuerin and David Chesnoff, two attorneys working for Durst, argued that the prosecutors' premise has not been proven or supported by evidence in part because Durst has not been convicted of killing his first wife.

Superior Court Judge Mark Windham, who oversaw the trial, set a sentencing hearing for October 18, according to Reuters.

In response to the verdict, the McCormack family issued a statement regarding Kathleen—who was declared legally dead in 2017 though her body was never found and no one was charged in the case.

"Today more than ever before it is clear that she was murdered by Robert Durst in Westchester County, New York on January 31, 1982. The evidence is overwhelming," they wrote. Although Durst has now been rightly convicted of killing Susan Berman, who helped him conceal the truth about Kathie's death, "the McCormack family is still waiting for justice. Kathie is still waiting for justice."

The family added that they hope the Westchester criminal justice system follows Los Angeles and charges Durst for the murder of his wife.

"The closing arguments by the Los Angeles Deputy District Attorneys should remove any doubt. It's bizarre and unacceptable that Durst was tried for killing an accomplice before being held accountable for Kathie's murder."

While filming The Jinx, Durst was recorded speaking to himself while using the bathroom and the clip has long been considered incriminating against him.

"There it is. You're caught," he said. "He was right. I was wrong.... What the hell did I do? Killed them all, of course."

Durst has been accused of several violent crimes including the murders of his first wife and Berman. In 2001, he was tried for killing and dismembering his Texas neighbor but was ultimately acquitted.

Prior to the murder trial, Durst had been serving a seven-year prison sentence for illegally possessing a .38-caliber revolver as part of a plea bargain arrangement in 2016.

Jess Vecchiarelli, director of communications for the Westchester County District Attorney's Office, issued a statement to Newsweek regarding Durst's guilty verdict.

"The Westchester District Attorney's Office commends all of those involved in persuading a California jury to hold Robert Durst accountable for the murder of Susan Berman," Vecchiarelli wrote. "Our independent investigation, which District Attorney Rocah re-opened shortly after she took office into Kathie Durst's death, remains ongoing and we will have no further comment at this time."

Update (09/17/2021, 9:15 p.m.): This article has been updated to include comments from the Westchester District Attorney's Office.