LOS ANGELES (AP) — The murder trial of eccentric New York real estate heir Robert Durst will resume next month after more than a yearlong hiatus due to the coronavirus pandemic, a judge said Monday.
Judge Mark Windham denied a renewed motion by Durst’s lawyers for a mistrial due to the “extreme delay” and ongoing concerns of mutations of COVID-19 that could pose a health threat to jurors and trial participants.
Jurors will be called back to Los Angeles County Superior Court in Inglewood on May 17 for informal questioning. A new round of opening statements will tentatively be held a day or two later.
A panel of 23 jurors, including 11 alternates, had heard six days of testimony in the lengthy case before it was postponed March 12 last year as the virus outbreak worsened and led to court closures and a statewide stay-home order.
Durst, who turned 78 on Monday, is charged with murder in the killing of his best friend, Susan Berman, in her Los Angeles home in December 2000.
Prosecutors claim Durst shot Berman in the back of the head to prevent her from telling police what she knew about the 1982 disappearance of his wife in New York.
The body of Kathleen Durst has never been found and she’s been legally declared dead. Durst has never been charged with any crime related to her disappearance and has denied any role in her death.
Durst, whose family owns the Durst Organization, a Manhattan commercial and residential real estate developer, has been jailed since his arrest in New Orleans in 2015. He has pleaded not guilty to Berman’s killing.
Durst was acquitted of murder in the shooting death of an elderly neighbor in a rooming house in Galveston, Texas, in 2001. He said he shot Morris Black in self-defense and then panicked and dismembered the body and tossed it out to sea in garbage bags.
All three killings were documented in “The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst,” an HBO documentary series that helped lead to his arrest.