Durst Judge Won't Budge on Some Witnesses Staying Incognito

Buddies Robert Durst smiles at attorney Dick De Guerin at a motions hearing on capital murder charges in the death of Susan Berman. The hearing took place in Los Angeles

The judge rejected arguments by Durst's lawyers that they won't have enough time to prepare to cross-examine the witnesses, at least two of whom the prosecution has so far refused to identify. Lewin said Durst killed her because she had incriminating information in Kathleen Durst's 1982 disappearance in NY.

"The idea that he does not have the wherewithal to intimidate, buy off or attempt to have witnesses killed who possess inculpatory evidence because he is 'old, ' 'frail, ' or in custody, is ludicrous", Lewin said.

Durst was formally charged with the Berman murder a day after HBO aired the final episode of "The Jinx", in which Durst was recorded muttering to himself off-camera: "What the hell did I do? Durst is in a wheelchair", defense attorney David Chesnoff told the judge, noting that he believes his client's jailhouse telephone calls are tape-recorded by authorities. Prosecutors said in the days ahead, they may bring in more witnesses. Prosecutors had argued that they wanted to take the testimony now in case the witnesses later died or were killed.

Prosecutors want to keep their identities under wraps for their safety. The prosecution said it was "not unreasonable" for the prosecution to question Kuperman early given his age.

Judge Mark Windham tentatively set a February 14 hearing for two witnesses to be questioned if he OKs the prosecutor's request. The security concerns are serious, Lewin argued in court, saying Durst is worth somewhere around $100 million. He didn't kill Susan Berman, doesn't know who did.

Prosecutors contend that Durst has a history of violence against witnesses, alleging he killed a neighbor, Morris Black, in 2001 in Galveston, Texas, where he was "living under an assumed name and pretended to be a mute woman".

Durst an estranged member of a New York real estate empire who may be worth as much as $100m chuckled to himself as prosecutor John Lewin spoke
Durst an estranged member of a New York real estate empire who may be worth as much as $100m chuckled to himself as prosecutor John Lewin spoke

Defense lawyer Dick DeGuerin said that allowing testimony from witnesses who were concealing their identities presumes that Durst was indeed involved in his wife's disappearance, in violation of the U.S. Constitution's rule that defendants are presumed to be innocent unless proven guilty in court. Durst was tried for that killing but acquitted. The other person's identity has been kept secret. But a prosecutor said in court the District Attorney's Office does not plan to seek the death penalty.

Durst, an estranged member of a NY real estate empire, fled to Galveston after learning the investigation into his wife's disappearance had been reopened in fall 2000, Lewin said.

He was sentenced to seven years in prison on a weapons charge following his arrest in New Orleans and, as part of a plea deal, was transferred to Los Angeles in November from a prison in Louisiana. He also was caught on microphone saying, "There it is, you're caught", and "What a disaster".

"It was not self-defense", Lewin said without elaborating.

Multimillionaire Robert Durst is a "menace to society" and a danger to several witnesses in his murder case, prosecutors said in an effort to preserve their testimony in case they get killed.

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