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Ex-Prosecutor: Letters, Not Audio, Prove Robert Durst Guilt

By    |   Monday, 16 Mar 2015 10:45 PM

A new murder charge filed on Monday against Robert Durst, the eccentric millionaire and admitted killer featured in an HBO true-crime miniseries, looks solid — but not because a filmmaker's microphone picked up Durst possibly confessing in the show's finale, says a New York criminal defense lawyer.

"The prosecutors are in very good shape," Dan Hochheiser, a former prosecutor himself, told "MidPoint" host Ed Berliner on Newsmax TV Monday.

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Authorities in Los Angeles charged Durst, 71, with first-degree murder in the 2000 death of his friend, crime writer Susan Berman — one of three deaths or disappearances linked to Durst that are examined in the six-episode HBO documentary, "The Jinx."

The series concluded on Sunday, one day after Durst was arrested in New Orleans on the warrant from Los Angeles, in a convergence between reality TV and real life so dramatic that some asked whether it was staged.

In the finale, a lapel microphone captures Durst muttering off-camera, apparently to himself, "What the hell did I do? Killed them all, of course."

Born into a wealthy New York real estate family, Durst was suspected of involvement in the 1982 disappearance of his wife, Kathleen Durst, last seen at the couple's suburban New York home. He was never arrested, and she has not been found.

He was acquitted of murder in the 2001 killing and dismembering of a neighbor under even stranger circumstances in Texas: At the time, the New York multimillionaire was occupying a $300-a-month apartment in Galveston and living as a woman — wearing wigs and dresses, and pretending to be mute.

Durst admitted to shooting and chopping up his neighbor, Morris Black, who he also called a friend. His lawyers in 2003 persuaded a jury that Durst killed Black in self-defense, in a struggle for a gun Black had menaced him with, and then had a psychotic break.

In the 2000 Berman murder case, it's not the "killed them all" remark caught on tape that helps Los Angeles prosecutors — it's two handwritten letters featured in "The Jinx" that strongly implicate Durst, said the host of the weekly podcast, "Talkin Law with Dan Hochheiser."

One letter, an anonymous note to police in Beverly Hills revealing the location of Berman's "cadaver," resembles a personal letter to Berman that Durst has admitted to writing, both in its handwriting and an identical misspelling of "Beverly Hills" as "Beverley Hills."

Durst, in "The Jinx," denied writing the anonymous letter about Berman's body.

But Hochheiser said: "That note written in block letters with 'Beverly' misspelled, with an extra 'e' before the 'y', matches the letter turned over by Berman's stepson to HBO, which has the same block letters and the same misspelling of 'Beverly,' which connects that letter — which Durst admits he wrote — to the anonymous letter, which was obviously written by the killer, since he's the one who told the police the cadaver is there.

"Furthermore, using the word 'cadaver' in that anonymous note is very telling," said Hochheiser. "Because remember: Kathleen Durst was a medical student. There were reports that she had worked with cadavers, so only the killer who had a close relationship with her would use that word in that note."

The prosecution's theory in Berman's death is that Durst feared she was about to become a witness against him in the disappearance of his wife, which was being re-investigated in 2000 by New York authorities.

A murder charge in New York today in the disappearance of Kathleen Durst would be more difficult to sustain right now, even with the confessional audio, because a body has never been found and prosecutors have no conclusive proof that Kathleen Durst was killed, he said.

Hochheiser said Durst is "a whack job" but a canny one: "This is not a guy who is all there, but he knows what he's doing."

Hochheiser was not surprised to see a situation develop where a documentary filmmaker winds up with evidence about an unsolved crime that police haven't seen.

"You have cold cases frequently in law enforcement, and sometimes the authorities run out of leads," he said.

"Here, Andrew Jarecki, who is the director [of 'The Jinx'] for HBO, did a brilliant job strategizing," he said. "He made this [2010] movie, 'All Good Things,' which is a reasonably fair depiction [of the Kathleen Durst disappearance] from the point of view of Robert Durst, who then felt comfortable participating in the 'The Jinx,' this documentary.

"Jarecki really played Lt. Columbo with him," said Hochheiser, "and finally got him with a smoking-gun piece of evidence, which is this letter which was uncovered from Susan Berman's stepson."

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A new murder charge filed on Monday against Robert Durst, the eccentric millionaire and admitted killer featured in an HBO true-crime miniseries, looks solid — but not because a filmmaker's microphone picked up Durst possibly confessing in the show's finale, says a New York criminal defense lawyer.
robert durst, murder, charge, hbo, show, jinx, tv
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Monday, 16 Mar 2015 10:45 PM
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