Robert Durst Is 'Eager' to Clear His Name, Lawyer Tells PEOPLE
The eminent Texas litigator leading New York real estate heir and suspected murderer Robert Durst’s defense team tells PEOPLE that his notorious client is anxious to get to California so he can finally prove his innocence.
“He is ready for the fight,” explains attorney Dick DeGuerin, who successfully defended Durst, 72, in 2003 while he was on trial for allegedly killing and dismembering Morris Black, his Galveston, Texas, neighbor.
“He was very discouraged, at first, when they arrested him” on federal firearm charges in New Orleans back on March 14, DeGuerin says. “But he has come to realize that this is finally his opportunity to clear his name – at trial, with fair rules, in a court that will require hard evidence.”
Durst ignored DeGuerin’s advice and served as the subject of the Emmy-winning HBO documentary series, The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst, which concluded its six-episode run in March.
The series focused on the 1982 disappearance of Durst’s first wife, Kathleen, while examining the 2000 murder of his longtime friend and spokeswoman, Susan Berman, for which he’s now facing first-degree murder charges in Los Angeles.
At the conclusion of The Jinx, Durst seemingly admitted his guilt mere moments after filmmaker Andrew Jarecki confronted him with a 1999 letter that the scion penned to Berman. The missive’s handwriting appears to match an anonymous letter mailed to Beverly Hills Police, alerting them to a “cadaver” at his Berman’s residence. Both letters also misspelled the word “Beverly” as “Beverley.”
With a live microphone still attached to his shirt, Durst could be heard softly talking to himself in a bathroom in the finale. At one point, the frail millionaire allegedly uttered, “What the hell did I do? Killed them all, of course.”
In an interview with PEOPLE, DeGuerin says the producers of the acclaimed HBO show “were out to get [Durst] from the very get-go” and claims his client was “tricked into thinking he would get a fair opportunity to explain himself after being under unfair suspicion for almost all of his adult life in the disappearance of his wife.”
Instead, DeGuerin says Durst was blindsided by Jarecki, who did not respond to emails seeking comment for this story.
“Now, he’s unfairly suspected of killing Ms. Berman because of this entertainment program being creatively edited to make it look like he was either confessing or that there is new evidence when there is not,” DeGuerin says. “He is eager to finally get have his say in court, at his trial, in front of a jury and not with somebody who was only out to get an Emmy.”
Life in Jail
DeGuerin says he has been traveling to Hahnville, Louisiana, weekly to meet with Durst at the St. Charles Parish Jail, where he is being held without bail. His client is not in isolation, but isn’t “roaming general population with 20-year-old gangbangers” either, he says.
DeGuerin says he’s “very satisfied with the way” his client is being treated at the jail, noting staffers tend to Durst’s ongoing health issues. Without offering up names, DeGuerin adds his client has had a number of visitors since his arrest in March.
Durst’s trial on the federal gun charge – stemming from his alleged possession of a handgun at the time of his March arrest – is set to begin in New Orleans on Jan. 11, 2016, and DeGuerin says he can’t wait.
“We’re ready to go, like race horses in the starting gates,” the lawyer says. “This case in New Orleans has been a distraction from him being able to defend himself in this case in California. We are trying to expedite the process [in Louisiana] so we can get him to California and go to trial as soon as we can.”
DeGuerin, who will represent Durst when he goes to trial in both Louisiana and California, admits that he’s not sure how easy it is going to be to find impartial jurors after the airing of The Jinx.
“We don’t know how much exposure HBO has in the areas where we will be picking our jury, but it is available through hundreds of cable providers and has been replaying,” he says. “You can also watch it online. What the saturation is, I don’t know. But we are making efforts to find that out.”
DeGuerin also says he’d be curious to see the raw footage that Jarecki and his film crew captured while profiling Durst.
“There are hundreds of hours of footage that was shot over several days with Bob, and a lot of the outtakes we don’t have yet but we would like to see because as I said, I think it was heavily creatively edited,” DeGuerin says.
Durst has pleaded not guilty to all charges against him.
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