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Prosecutors Fear Robert Durst Might Have Witnesses Killed Before Trial

Robert Durst appears in court on December 21. (Photo by Jae C. Hong-pool\Getty Images)
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Prosecutors will appear before a judge on Friday morning to request that witnesses be questioned early in the murder trial against Robert Durst, out of fear that the real estate scion will have them killed."Defendant is a menace to society," Los Angeles County prosecutors wrote in their latest filing, reports City New Service. "On three separate occasions, he has attempted to flee from public accusations, government investigations or formal charges in connection with the deaths of three people. During each flight, he has demonstrated a willingness to use deadly force to escape justice—killing two people and arming himself with deadly weapons to kill anyone who stood in his way of escape.'' Prosecutors also argue that his wealth—an estimated $100 million—would make it easy for him to arrange to have witnesses harmed.

Durst is on trial for the murder of his friend Susan Berman, who was found dead in her Benedict Canyon home on Christmas Eve in 2000. Prosecutors argue that Durst has has a history of violence against witnesses, citing the killing of Durst's neighbor Morris Black in 2001. They wrote in the filing that Durst was in Galveston, Texas at the time, "living under an assumed name and pretended to be a mute woman" when Black uncovered the truth and was subsequently killed. Durst claimed self-defense and was acquitted of murder. Prosecutors also argue that Berman was killed because she was about to speak to investigators about the disappearance of Durst's wife Kathleen.

Defense attorneys have objected the request, contending their client is "frail," "in a wheelchair," and behind bars. "There is simply no factual basis upon which one could claim that Mr. Durst has the ability to harm anyone," wrote attorney Donald Re. They also argue that prosecutors have only named two witnesses and want to postpone naming them until a week or two before questioning.

If the prosecution gets their way, both sides would be able to question the witnesses in such hearings. The taped testimony is to be used in a hearing to determine if there is enough evidence for Durst to stand trial for murder charges, and would be used in court later if the witness was somehow unavailable to take the witness stand.

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Durst was the subject of the HBO documentary series The Jinx, which explored the mysterious circumstances surrounding the death or disappearance of people around Robert Durst. A week before the series finale, the LAPD re-opened their investigation into the death of Susan Berman. In the show's final episode, Durst was caught on an open mic muttering, "What the hell did I do? Killed them all, of course."

Durst was arrested in New Orleans the day before the finale aired, and has since been brought to L.A. and formally charged with murder for the death of Berman. He recently told prosecutors that he was "on meth the whole time" during the filming of The Jinx.