LOS ANGELES — Prosecutors who charged New York real estate heir Robert Durst with the murder of his friend in Los Angeles want to videotape testimony from witnesses they fear could die or be killed before trial.
Deputy District Attorney John Lewin said Wednesday that prosecutors fear for the safety of witnesses because Durst is accused of killing a witness in the 1982 disappearance of his wife. Durst, 73, is charged with capital murder in the death of Susan Berman, his friend and one-time spokeswoman. “48 Hours” investigated the case in the epsiode, “Murder 90210.”
Durst is accused of killing Berman inside her Los Angeles home on Christmas Eve in 2000.
Authorities suspect he committed the murder because prosecutors in New York’s Westchester County were about to interview her about the 1982 disappearance of Durst’s first wife, Kathleen”Kathie” McCormack Durst, who was in the process of divorcing him at the time of her death.
Lawyers for Durst objected to taking conditional testimony and suggestions the 73-year-old Durst, who is using a wheelchair and in custody, is a threat to anyone.
During the Wednesday hearing prosecutors and defense attorneys also sparred over whether documents seized by authorities in relation to the case were obtained legally. The defense argued prosecutors should not be allowed to use the documents, which they say are subject to attorney-client privilege, during Durst’s trial.
Prosecutors say the documents don’t qualify as protected by attorney-client privilege in part because they were shared with producers of the popular HBO documentary series “The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst,” examining his links to two deaths and his wife’s disappearance.
Durst, who was brought into the courtroom in a wheelchair, said nothing during the hearing.
The Berman murder charge includes the special circumstance allegations of murder of a witness and murder while lying in wait, along with gun use allegations, according to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office.
Los Angeles police detectives claim two handwriting experts have linked Durst to an anonymous letter alerting authorities to a “cadaver” at Berman’s home.
He was arrested March 14, 2015, in a New Orleans hotel room, hours before the airing of the final episode of “The Jinx.” In the episode, Durst is heard muttering to himself in a bathroom “There it is. You’re caught. What the hell did I do? Killed them all, of course.”
Durst’s microphone had not been turned off in the minutes after he had been presented with seemingly incriminating evidence.
During his first court appearance, Durst pleaded not guilty. His lawyers have maintained his innocence.