Robert Durst Pleads Not Guilty in Murder Trial — as Prosecutors Won't Seek Death Penalty
New York real estate heir and accused killer Robert Durst pleaded not guilty Monday to murdering his longtime friend Susan Berman, PEOPLE confirms. Prosecutors announced they “will not be seeking the death penalty.”
Durst, 73, was brought into Los Angeles County’s Airport Courthouse for his arraignment in a wheelchair, pushed by a deputy. He wore a neck brace and a blue shirt and glasses and appeared frail and pale.
Durst agreed to a preliminary hearing on Feb. 15, and he told the judge, “I am not guilty. I did not kill Susan Berman.”
Durst was brought back to Los Angeles on Friday from a federal correctional facility in Louisiana and booked into an L.A. jail. Durst has been incarcerated since his March 2015 arrest in New Orleans on a federal weapons charges.
That same month, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office filed a first-degree murder charge with the special circumstances of murder of a witness and lying in wait and gun use allegations against Durst.
He is charged with murdering Berman on or about Dec. 23, 2000. Her body was discovered in her home in Benedict Canyon, California, home on Christmas Eve of that year.
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Prosecutors allege that Durst killed Berman, a journalist and daughter of mob boss Davie Berman, because he didn’t want her talking to New York police about the mysterious 1982 disappearance of his first wife, Kathleen Durst, in which he has long been suspected but never charged.
Both Berman’s execution-style shooting death and the disappearance of Durst’s first wife were explored in the HBO docuseries The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst, in which Durst participated against his attorney’s advice. In the finale of that series, Durst apparently muttered to himself that he’d “killed them all, of course,” while allegedly being unaware his microphone was still on. He was arrested soon after.
Durst’s attorney, Dick DeGuerin, said his client has been looking forward to returning to Los Angeles to fight the charges.
“Bob did not kill Susan Berman,” DeGuerin tells PEOPLE. “He doesn’t know who did. He has been eager to get to trial for a year and a half. It has been hard on him and he will finally have his day in court and we are eager to have it happen.”
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DeGuerin says he wants Durst to be placed in a special facility to address his health needs while he awaits trial. He said in court Monday that Durst has difficulty hearing.
“He is good but in frail health,” DeGuerin says. “He has stomach problems. He has neck problems. He recently had a spinal fusion in his cervical spine. He is a cancer survivor. He had brain surgery and has a stint in his brain that drains the excess. He has a number of health problems. He was operated on for laryngeal cancer but they got it all.”
In March 2015, a Los Angeles judge signed an arrest warrant for Durst for the alleged murder of Berman. Days later, Durst was discovered in a New Orleans hotel, where he had checked in under the alias “Everette Ward.”
In his hotel room, FBI agents say they discovered a .38-caliber revolver, a mask and more than $40,000 in cash.
Durst originally faced up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine for illegally carrying the weapon as a felon, but later agreed to a plea and subsequent sentence of seven years and once month.
He’ll serve his time on the gun charge while awaiting prosecution in Berman’s death.