Will Robert Durst Get The Death Penalty If He's Convicted Of Murdering Susan Berman?
For a true story that's been playing out like an imaginative mystery novel, this stranger-than-fiction tale appears to be getting a befitting ending. Robert Durst, the subject of the HBO documentary The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst, was taken into custody just as his six-part docuseries was coming to a close. Durst was arrested in New Orleans on Saturday in connection with the murder of his one-time friend Susan Berman, the day before HBO aired the final episode of The Jinx, which revealed a potential confession from the 71-year-old real estate heir. Those caught up to speed on the twisted series are probably wondering now: Will Robert Durst get the death penalty during sentencing if he is convicted?
In the final episode of The Jinx, Durst can be heard whispering, unaware that he was being recorded, "What the hell did I do? Killed them all, of course." Hours before the world learned of this seemingly candid confession, Durst was arrested at a Marriott hotel in New Orleans after checking in under a false name. After Los Angeles County issued a warrant, authorities arrested Durst in his hotel for his alleged involvement in the 2000 murder of Berman, but Westchester County, New York, authorities are also still investigating him in the disappearance of his first wife, Kathleen Durst.
On Monday, Durst agreed to being extradited during a brief hearing at the New Orleans Magistrate Court, where he will face a murder charge for the death of Berman. Berman, who had been a longtime friend and confidante to Durst, was shot execution-style in her living room in Los Angeles just days before investigators planned to visit her and ask her about what she knew of Kathleen's 1982 disappearance. That was in 2000, when Westchester authorities reopened Kathleen's case. Similarly, Los Angeles investigators reopened Berman's case sometime in the past year after Durst began participating in interviews with the documentary's producers, Andrew Jarecki and Marc Smerling.
The LAPD issued a statement on Sunday, saying:
As a result of investigative leads and additional evidence that has come to light in the past year, investigators have identified Robert Durst as the person responsible for Ms. Berman's death.
So what will happen to Durst now? Berman's case has been described by Los Angeles authorities as first-degree murder with special circumstances. Special circumstances include committing murder for financial gain, as a hate crime, or to prevent a witness to a crime from testifying (the latter of which applies to Durst). In California, first-degree murder with special circumstances carries the mandatory sentence of the death penalty or life without parole. Although it might be a while before Los Angeles prosecutors decide whether or not they'll pursue the death penalty, it's certainly a possibility.
But as he's consistently done, Durst is denying his involvement in Berman's murder, as he's also done in relation with Kathleen's disappearance. Durst's lawyer Dick DeGuerin told reporters:
Bob Durst didn't kill Susan Berman. He is ready to end all speculation and go to trial.
While many, including Kathleen's brother James McCormack, feel that Durst might finally succumb to the justice system soon, let's not forget that he was already acquitted of murder once, after admitting to shooting and dismembering his neighbor, Morris Black. This is definitely one story nobody should bother predicting.Images: Getty Images (3)