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Robert Durst gets surprise offer of 9-month delay in Los Angeles murder trial

2020-07-19

Robert Durst has been floated a nine-month pandemic postponement in his Los Angeles murder trial.

The millionaire Manhattan real estate scion previously acquitted of murdering a Texas man dumped in Galveston Bay was due to resume his separate California murder trial July 27 until a surprise offer from prosecutors Friday.

At a hearing in Inglewood, Calif., prosecutors said they’d be willing to wait until April 2021 on the condition the existing jury is brought back to continue hearing their case that Durst, 77, murdered his best friend Susan Berman inside her Los Angeles bungalow in December 2000.

Durst, the subject of HBO’s “The Jinx,” didn’t attend the hearing in person, so his lawyers said they had to visit him in custody to discuss the offer.

Before Deputy District Attorney John Lewin proposed the lengthy delay, Durst lawyer David Chesnoff argued for a mistrial, citing the COVID-19 pandemic and defense worries that current jurors may have been exposed to damaging “outside influence” during the 137-day trial hiatus so far.

Judge Mark Windham set a tentative April 12 jury return date Friday and ordered the lawyers back to court July 31 with Durst’s wishes before he officially rules on the mistrial motion.

Durst remains on a no-bail hold in the Berman case as he finishes up a federal sentence for possessing an illegal gun when he was arrested on the murder warrant five years ago.

“We cannot have a jury trial in this case at this time with this jury,” Chesnoff argued by phone during the Friday hearing. “It is clear that the pandemic in Los Angeles County has spiraled out of control.”

In the Berman case, Durst is accused of killing his longtime friend to keep her from speaking to New York prosecutors about his missing first wife, Kathie Durst.

Prosecutors claim Durst was an abusive husband who killed Kathie in 1982 and later drafted Berman to help him cover his tracks.

They allege Durst murdered Berman 18 years later to guarantee her silence amid a renewed investigation.

Durst has maintained his innocence in the case, though he admitted through his lawyers he sent the infamous “cadaver note” that alerted authorities to Berman’s body.