NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — New York real estate heir Robert Durst was officially charged with a friend’s murder on Monday and could face the death penalty if convicted.
Durst was also hit with weapons charges in Louisiana, where he was awaiting extradition Monday night, CBS2’s Jessica Schneider reported.
As CBS2’s Alice Gainer reported, Durst, 71, was still in New Orleans late Monday, but was set to return to Los Angeles after waiving extradition. A murder charge was issued against him there in the shooting nearly 15 years ago of a mobster’s daughter who vouched for him after his wife disappeared.
He has been charged in Los Angeles with first-degree murder, with the special circumstances of the murder of a witness, prosecutors said.
The capital murder charge makes Durst eligible for the death penalty in California, but prosecutors must decide whether to seek it.
Meanwhile, Louisiana State Police Trooper Melissa Matey told The Associated Press that an arrest warrant was issued for Durst and he was rebooked in the Orleans Parish Jail on Monday under two new charges. They are: convicted felon in possession of a firearm, and possession of a weapon with a controlled dangerous substance. Matey said the controlled substance was a small amount of marijuana.
Matey said she does not know whether Louisiana prosecutors will try to keep him in the state on those charges before he is sent to Los Angeles.
Police said Durst had a revolver on him at the time of his arrest.
Durst shuffled into a New Orleans courtroom with his hands shackled at his waist, wearing sandals and an orange jumpsuit. He smiled at the gallery, then appeared to fall asleep and later answered “yes” to a judge’s questions about waiving extradition.
Magistrate Harry Cantrell said Durst could now be taken to California and that he could get pain medication meanwhile, after attorney Dick DeGuerin said Durst has had “neurosurgery.”
“We came here to waive jurisdiction and go back to California, and to get it on,” DeGuerin said outside court. “Bob Durst didn’t kill Susan Berman. He’s ready to end all the rumor and speculation and have a trial. But we’re frustrated because local authorities are considering filing charges on him and holding him here.”
These consequences came only hours after Sunday’s finale of an HBO documentary detailing his life of privilege and links to three deaths: his friend in Los Angeles, Susan Berman; his wife in New York, Kathleen Durst; and Morris Black, an elderly neighbor in Texas.
Durst is heard muttering, “killed them all, of course,” at the end of “The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst.”
Authorities were hoping Monday that this and other evidence will finally lead to a conviction.
But as WCBS 880’s Peter Haskell reported, a confession on TV does not necessarily translate into a guilty verdict in court.
High-profile defense attorney Ben Brafman, who is not involved in the case, said he feels this is not an end all be all.
“Well a lot of it really depends on what, if any, additional there is,” he said.
Brafman told CBS2 that Durst could be dismissed by some as out of touch and unstable.
“Most people think he’s not playing with a full deck, and to the extent that this could be viewed as the ramblings of an old, tired man who’s been pursued for 10 or 20 or 30 years, it might be dismissed as something that is musings as opposed to an actual statement,” he said.
He also questioned whether the audio confession will even be admissible in court.
“That tape has been around a long time and it just appeared. There are going to be questions as to whether that tape was tampered with, whether it’s taken out of context; what does it relate to?” Brafman said. “I think the tape is alive and in play.”