The California murder trial of real estate heir Robert Durst is likely to move to a new venue this summer, depending on how a judge rules on a defense motion for a mistrial.
The case against the 77-year-old scion of one of New York’s wealthiest real estate dynasties is expected to move to the Inglewood courthouse from Los Angeles, The Daily Breeze reported Friday. Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Mark Windham will consider the defense’s mistrial motion in a hearing scheduled for June 23, court spokeswoman Mary Hearn said.
Durst’s defense team filed the motion in April, arguing Durst cannot get a fair trial because of a long pause in the proceedings brought on by court closures due to the novel coronavirus crisis. The attorneys say the stoppage, which is expected to end with a scheduled resumption of the trial July 27, makes it unrealistic that the jury will be able to perform its functions.
“The risk that jurors will not be accurately able to recall the evidence introduced prior to adjournment is heightened here,” the motion says.
Durst is on trial in the killing of his best friend, Susan Berman, in her home in Beverly Hills in December 2000.
Prosecutors argued in opening statements that Durst shot Berman because she knew Durst had killed his wife, who disappeared in 1982. Durst has never been charged in his wife’s killing and denied having any role in either death.
The jury had been hearing the case in a courtroom at the Airport courthouse near Los Angeles International Airport before the COVID-19 pandemic forced officials to close the county’s courthouses to all but time-sensitive, essential matters in March.
Moving the trial from the courtroom where it was being heard to a larger venue at the Inglewood courthouse will better enable the court to implement social distancing protocols, Hearn said.
For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death. The vast majority of people recover.