INGLEWOOD, Calif. -- Robert Durst laughed on the witness stand Monday, Aug. 30 when asked if he stood by his story he drank a fifth of Jack Daniels before dismembering the corpse of his Texas neighbor Morris Black back in 2001.
The wealthy heir to a New York real estate empire had just testified he weighed about 150 pounds when he drained the bottle of whiskey and hacked up Black’s body so he could toss the dead man’s torso and limbs in Galveston Bay.
"At 150 pounds, how on earth could you have downed 20 to 30 shots of whiskey, walked to and from your Galveston apartment and then dismembered Morris Black’s corpse?”
Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney John Lewin asked during Durst’s 12th day of testimony at his murder trial in Inglewood, California.
“I remember taking big chugs from the bottle of Jack Daniels, and I remember spitting up a whole bunch of times. And I remember taking a lot of showers,” Durst replied.
Lewin pulled out a full fifth of Jack Daniels as a prop during the tense exchange.
“Are you telling this jury that you believe you could have ingested that amount of liquor and then dismembered a corpse with saws and an ax, is that your testimony?” Lewin asked.
Durst let out the awkward giggle, turned toward the jurors seated in the courtroom, and said in a louder than usual voice, “That is my testimony.”
Durst, 78, is now on trial for the December 2000 murder of his best friend Susan Berman in Los Angeles.
Prosecutors claim he shot Berman dead to guarantee her silence after she helped him cover up the 1982 murder of his first wife, Kathie Durst.
Black’s 2001 slaying has loomed large at the trial because prosecutors claim Durst fatally shot Black to silence him as well after the neighbor discovered his identity while he was hiding out on the Gulf Coast barrier island.
A Texas jury acquitted Durst of Black’s murder after the millionaire claimed he killed Black in self-defense and then chopped up the body in a drunken panic described as a “fugue state.”
In another dramatic moment Monday, Durst was confronted with a recording of a jail call with his current wife Debra Charatan from Oct. 21, 2015, after he was arrested on the Berman murder warrant.
On the recording played in court, Durst is heard discussing former Westchester County District Attorney Jeanine Pirro and the false theory that his estranged brother Douglas Durst, now head of the billion-dollar Durst Organization in Manhattan, helped him “dispose” of Kathie’s body.
“I love it,” Durst tells Charatan. “Yes, she thinks that Douglas helped you,” Charatan says, referring to Pirro.
“I might decide to, depending on how things go, to confirm her thoughts,” Durst says.
After getting Durst to confirm what he said, Lewin asked him to “please explain that clip.”
Durst stared straight ahead, silently, for more than 20 seconds.
“You’re speechless, aren’t you?” Lewin asked.
“It doesn’t make sense,” Durst finally responded.
“Mr. Durst isn’t it true that that clip right there is basically a confession that you killed your wife and that depending on how things go, you might decide to take Douglas down with you? Isn’t that what you were saying?” Lewin asked.
“I think everything you just said is wrong. That is not a confession that I killed my wife,” Durst said.
Lewin refused to relent, saying the recording showed Durst planned to take his “hated brother down” with him, out of “spite,” if convicted in Los Angeles.
After another lengthy silence, Lewin urged Durst to “put the façade down.”
“Why don’t you just tell us right now, get it out and just tell us what you did. This is your shot. Everyone’s watching. The world’s watching you. Here’s your chance, tell them what you did,” Lewin shouted.
“I thought this trial was about Susan Berman,” Durst replied.
“You killed Susan Berman because you killed your wife, and she helped you cover it up,” Lewin shot back.
“Why don’t you just, right now, put the façade down and tell people what actually happened, why you did what you did,” Lewin challenged Durst.
“I have repeatedly told people what happened and why I did what I did,” Durst responded, shortly before testimony ended for the day.
The judge overseeing the trial, Judge Mark Windham, told jurors Monday they should expect to begin deliberations Sept. 14.
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