'He'd like to murder me,' estranged Durst brother testifies at trial in LA

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Tuesday, June 29, 2021
'He'd like to murder me,' estranged Durst brother testifies
An estranged brother reluctantly testified at Robert Durst's murder trial that the two never got along and he feared his brother would kill him.

INGLEWOOD, Calif. (KABC) -- Robert Durst's brother testified Monday in Los Angeles Superior Court that he never saw any violence in his older sibling's first marriage, but said his brother wanted to kill him and that he took those threats seriously.

Asked about how his brother feels about him, Douglas Durst bluntly told jurors, "He'd like to murder me.''

"Are you aware of your brother, in fact, making calls from Pennsylvania discussing that very subject?'' Deputy District Attorney John Lewin asked.

"I am aware of that, yes,'' he said.

"Did you take those threats seriously?'' Lewin asked.

"Yes, I did,'' the younger Durst responded.

Former 'SNL' cast member Laraine Newman testifies in Robert Durst murder trial

The murder trial of Robert Durst, the millionaire real estate heir, continued with testimony from former "Saturday Night Live" cast member Laraine Newman.

Robert Durst is on trial for the murder of Susan Berman, a longtime friend killed in her Benedict Canyon home in 2000. The New York real estate heir is also suspected of killing his first wife, Kathie Durst, and was acquitted of the dismemberment murder of a neighbor in Texas.

The prosecution used Douglas Durst's testimony to rebut several elements of his brother's defense.

Douglas Durst is roughly a year and a half younger than his 78-year-old brother, but looked decades his junior, his bright white dress shirt showing off a deep tan and his salt-and-pepper hair. His voice was easily heard through a thick face mask he wore throughout his testimony about his brother, who sat in a wheelchair wearing jail clothes, ashen and frail.

Outside the presence of the jury, Lewin had complained that the defendant, who is in ill health and catheterized, was seeking the jury's sympathy by refusing to have a bag of urine emptied and holding it up in view of the panel.

"I want to make sure that that bag is not utilized as a prop,'' Lewin said, after citing other ways in which the prosecutor believed Durst sought to manipulate jurors' emotions.

In a rare move, Durst stood and spoke to the court in a raspy, shaking, but determined voice.

"I am not seeking sympathy from the jury. My head is shaved because this is the only kind of haircut I'm able to get in the can,'' Durst said, pushing back against the idea that it was done to draw attention to a shunt in his skull. "I have been doing everything possible to get the ... doctors at (the jail) to remove the bag. I don't want to have the catheter at all."

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Mark Windham said he would talk with the lawyer who represents the jail medical staff about the issue.

After the panelists were seated -- back in the close quarters of the jury box for the first time since the trial resumed after being shut down for more than a year due to the pandemic -- Douglas Durst testified about his family's business.

Robert Durst has been long estranged from his real estate-rich family, which is known for vast real estate holdings in Manhattan, including ownership in high-profile properties like One World Trade Center.

Douglas, who is president of The Durst Organization and said he hadn't seen his brother in 20 years, testified that his brother no longer had any interest in the trusts that make up the family's fortune because "he was bought out at his request'' in 2006.

Robert had originally been designated as the primary manager of that wealth as the oldest son, but Douglas was appointed in his place in 1995, when their father, Seymour, died.

An acrimonious legal dispute took place in 2006 over Robert's share of the trust. Durst said the settlement amounted to tens of millions of dollars, and it has been previously reported as totaling $60 to $65 million. Douglas said his brother was angry over the massive settle.

Robert Durst has pleaded not guilty to the 2000 killing of his friend Susan Berman.

The Associated Press and City News Service contributed to this report.