Judge allows 2 witnesses, who may be in danger, early testimony in Robert Durst trial

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A judge will allow early testimony for two witnesses, who prosecutors say may be in danger, in the murder trial against real estate heir Robert Durst. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, Pool)

A judge will allow early testimony for two witnesses, who prosecutors say may be in danger, in the murder trial against real estate heir Robert Durst.

Calling the 73-year-old millionaire a "menace to society," the prosecution claims Durst has the means to buy off, intimidate and even kill witnesses who testify against him during a court hearing on Friday.

"That man kills witnesses. That's what he does. That's what he did in this case," prosecutor John Lewin said. "It's that Mr. Durst, when he's pushed into a corner - he murders people."

In newly filed paperwork, the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office alleges that Durst has killed two people who had information on the mysterious disappearance of his first wife and was prepared to kill others who might have stopped him.

Durst has pleaded not guilty to one count of first-degree murder in the fatal shooting death of his best friend Susan Berman. Prosecutors claim that Durst killed Berman to prevent her from revealing key evidence against him.

At a scheduled hearing Friday, the D.A.'s office urged the judge to allow the testimony of two witnesses to be recorded immediately, before there is even a preliminary hearing as a safety measure.

One of those witnesses is Albert Kuperman, a doctor who may have been the last person to talk to Durst's wife, Kathy, before she disappeared in 1982. The other person's identity has been kept secret.

Defense attorneys in the case have described the prosecutors' claims as "ludicrous," describing Durst as a frail septuagenarian who uses a wheelchair and poses no threat to anyone.

Pointing to Durst's fortune, prosecutors say his money offers him the means to possibly carry out something sinister against witnesses who testify against him.

Prosecutors also said they will have to link Durst to his missing wife in order to prove a motive for his suspected slaying of Berman.

The judge agreed that caution for the witness testimony may be necessary. Two witnesses will come to the courthouse to testify on Feb. 14. Prosecutors said in the days ahead, they may bring in more witnesses.
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