October 15, 2018 / 10:01 AM / a month ago

Los Angeles judge to weigh evidence against Robert Durst of 'The Jinx'

LOS ANGELES, Oct 15 (Reuters) - Real estate scion Robert Durst, the enigmatic subject of the HBO television documentary “The Jinx,” was due back in court on Monday for a hearing on whether prosecutors have sufficient evidence to bring their murder case against him to trial.

The 75-year-old multimillionaire Durst was arrested in 2015 and charged with murder in the 2000 shooting death of his longtime friend and confidante, Susan Berman.

The defendant, a grandson of New York real estate titan Joseph Durst, has pleaded not guilty.

Berman, 55, was found dead at her home in Los Angeles a few months after it was revealed police had reopened an investigation into the 1982 disappearance of Durst’s wife, Kathleen. Prosecutors have said Durst shot Berman because of what she knew about the fate of his spouse, whom authorities have said they presume was slain by her husband.

Durst has never been charged and has denied having anything to do with in the disappearance of his wife, who was a medical student at the time she went missing. Her body has never been found.

One of the first witnesses expected to testify at Monday’s preliminary hearing is Peter Halperin, who was a friend of Kathleen Durst, said Greg Risling, a spokesman for the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office.

Halperin told investigators she had confided in him days before her disappearance that she feared her husband, according to court papers filed by prosecutors. The Dursts lived in New York City at the time.

The preliminary hearing starting on Monday is expected to last two weeks. At the end of it, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Mark Windham will decide whether the prosecution has presented enough evidence to require Durst to stand trial in Berman’s murder.

Durst’s ties to Berman’s death, his wife’s disappearance and a Texas slaying for which he was acquitted by a jury were explored in “The Jinx.” In the series finale, which aired in 2015, Durst was caught on microphone talking to himself, saying, “What the hell did I do? Killed them all, of course.”

In 2001, Durst was arrested and charged with murdering his elderly neighbor in Texas, Morris Black. During the trial in that case, he admitted to killing and dismembering Black, but a jury acquitted him of homicide after his attorneys argued it was an accidental shooting in self-defense.

The evidence presented to date includes the pre-trial testimony of witnesses who took the stand in a series of hearings in 2017 and earlier this year. Windham invoked a rare judicial procedure to allow them to testify in case they die or become incapacitated before the case could go to a jury. (Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis; Editing by Steve Gorman and Sandra Maler)

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