Robert Durst Ordered to Stand Trial in Susan Berman Murder Case

Subject of HBO’s “The Jinx” faces possible life in state prison without possibility of parole

robert durst arraignment los angeles
Pamela Chelin

Real estate heir Robert Durst, who was the subject of HBO’s “The Jinx,” has been ordered to stand trial on charges that he murdered his friend Susan Berman, the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office said Thursday.

“Durst was held to answer for murder with the special circumstances of witness killing and lying in wait by Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Mark Windham,” the D.A.’s office said in a statement, adding that Durst also faces gun use allegations.

Per the D.A.’s office, Durst is charged with murdering Berman on or about Dec. 23, 2000. Her body was discovered in her Benedict Canyon home on Christmas Eve. The defendant was arrested in March 2015 by FBI agents in New Orleans.

In addition to the holding order binding Durst for trial, Judge Windham found that the statements by Berman, in which she admitted to assisting Durst with the fabrication of his alibi for the death of his missing wife Kathie, were admissible pursuant to the forfeiture by wrongdoing doctrine.

Durst is due for arraignment on Nov. 8. If convicted as charged, he faces a possible maximum sentence of life in state prison without the possibility of parole.

Speaking to TheWrap on Thursday, Durst’s attorney, Dick DeGuerin, said that his client will plead not guilty on Nov. 8, and likened the hearing leading up to Thursday’s order to “watching paint dry.”

“It’s been very dull because it’s mainly been investigators testifying to what people said. So it’s not anything that’s very exciting and its outcome was a foregone conclusion, and has been since he was arrested in March of 2015,” DeGuerin added. “But, as I’ve said before, Bob Durst didn’t kill Susan Berman and he doesn’t know who did. The evidence is very circumstantial at best. And so we’ve been waiting to get to trial, to get the case in shape to get to trial for some time.”

DeGuerin also criticized prosecutors’ recent efforts to have Durst’s interview for the DVD release of Ryan Gosling’s film “All Good Things,” which was based on the case, introduced as evidence.

“I realize this is California and Hollywood and so forth, but they really respect the rules of evidence out here just like they do in Texas, so I was a little set back that that is what they wanted to do. It’s trial by movie,” DeGuerin said. “First, ‘The Jinx,’ which was largely fictional and was designed to win an Emmy, and it did, and then the movie, it was pure fiction — ‘All Good Things.’”

DeGuerin added, “But Bob’s an easy target. He’s not made some of the wisest choices. One of the dumbest things that he did was to agree to let these TV producers tell his story. They didn’t want to tell his story. They wanted to trick him.”