He appeared frail and confused and needed help getting to the courtroom podium, but once there, Robert Durst made a clear proclamation about his innocence.
“Oh, I am not guilty, your honor,” the millionaire murder suspect told Orleans Parish Criminal District Court Judge Franz Zibilich during his arraignment Thursday in New Orleans on state weapons and drug charges, according to the Associated Press.
Dressed in a bright yellow jumpsuit with his hands shackled to his sides, the 71-year-old heir to a New York real estate fortune was brought to court after an Orleans Parish grand jury indicted him the day before on charges of being a felon in possession of a firearm and being in possession of a firearm with a controlled substance.
Durst, who turns 72 on Sunday, seemed more frail than usual in court, relying on his high-powered legal team to help him through the proceedings.
Two of his lawyers had to lift him from a chair to his feet to walk to the podium to enter his plea, the AP reported.
Lead defense lawyer Dick DeGuerin had to whisper twice into his ear before he stated that he was not guilty, according to the AP. Durst said he “could not hear” the judge.
When the judge asked if Durst was entering a not guilty plea for both counts, DeGuerin whispered in his ear once more, with Durst answering, “Yes, your honor.”
The judge scheduled an evidentiary hearing for May 7.
Extradition on Hold
Durst and his lawyers were hoping to get the charges dropped in Louisiana so he could be released for extradition to California.
He faces a first-degree murder warrant out of Los Angeles in connection with the execution-style shooting of his longtime friend and confidante, Susan Berman, who was found dead in her Beverly Hills, California, home in 2000.
The indictment may postpone his extradition, since his lawyers must now fight the Louisiana drug and weapons charges.
On March 14, the day before the blockbuster finale of The Jinx, federal agents picked up Durst on the California warrant at the J.W. Marriott in New Orleans. A .38-caliber revolver and five ounces of marijuana were found in his hotel room.
Durst’s lawyers argued the agents had not yet obtained a search warrant and that their client was unlawfully arrested.
Since his arrest, Durst has been held without bond in a medical unit at a correctional facility outside of New Orleans.
A Possible Federal Weapons Charge
Durst may also face a federal weapons charge, ABC News reported.
A recently released FBI affidavit from a federal criminal complaint filed in U.S. District Court in New Orleans on Tuesday says probable cause exists for Durst to face the new federal charge of possession of a firearm by a felon because of his 2004 federal firearm conviction.
After the arraignment, DeGuerin told reporters that he would be in federal court Thursday afternoon over the potential federal charge.
“I feel like we re being tag-teamed and I feel like we ve got to be in California where the main case is so we can try the case,” Deguerin told reporters.
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