Six years after his arrest, Robert Durst takes the stand in L.A. murder trial
Robert Durst took the stand at his California murder trial Monday and immediately denied killing his best friend, who prosecutors say was about to reveal to investigators his involvement in the 1982 disappearance of his wife.
“Bob, did you kill Susan Berman?” Durst’s attorney Dick DeGuerin said to open the testimony of the 78-year-old New York real estate heir.
“No,” Durst answered.
“Do you know who did?” DeGuerin asked.
“No, I do not,” answered Durst, who struggled to hear, strained to speak and appeared extremely frail as he sat in a wheelchair instead of a witness chair.
During his first hour on the stand, Durst went on to recount his childhood, including his mother’s death at the family estate when he was 7 years old and the fact that he blamed his father for her passing.
“I did not see whether she jumped or fell … I saw her on the roof. I waved at Mommy on the roof,” he said. “Then, I was walked to my bedroom and shortly thereafter, I heard my father yell.”
Durst’s often rambling answers prompted repeated objections from Deputy Dist. Atty. John Lewin, who questioned the relevance of Durst’s childhood to the trial.
Berman was shot in the back of the head and killed in 2000 in her Los Angeles home. She had been Durst’s best friend for decades and acted as his de facto spokesman after the disappearance of his wife, Kathie, who was later declared dead, though no body was found.
Durst also described meeting Berman, a mobster’s daughter who grew up in Las Vegas, when both were in graduate school at the University of California, Los Angeles in the 1960s. He said the two struck up a close, decades-long friendship.
“We both had trust funds,” Durst said.
The questioning had not yet addressed Kathie Durst’s disappearance or the details of Berman’s death when court ended for the day. Durst is set return to the stand Wednesday.
Durst, who has bladder cancer and several other ailments that he listed from the stand, wore the brown jail attire he’s had on in court for the past few weeks of the trial. His attorneys said he’s been unable to stand to put on a suit.
He struggled to hear both the clerk when he was sworn in and DeGuerin as he asked questions, using a tablet that showed a live transcription to help him understand.