A jury was chosen in Los Angeles on Thursday in the murder trial of millionaire Robert Durst, capping a weeklong selection process in a case expected to last into the summer and draw international media attention.
The eight-woman, four-man panel was sworn in at a courtroom in the Airport Courthouse near LAX as Durst, 76, looked on.
Durst is accused of killing his friend and confidant, Susan Berman, in her Benedict Canyon home in December 2000. Prosecutors allege he shot Berman to prevent her from incriminating him in the 1982 disappearance of his first wife, Kathleen “Kathie” McCormack Durst.
An eccentric heir to a Manhattan real estate fortune, Durst has repeatedly denied killing Berman. No one has ever been charged in the disappearance of Kathie Durst.
Durst was arrested in New Orleans in 2015, the day before the finale of the HBO docu-series “The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst,” which chronicled his erratic life, the disappearance of his wife and the killings of Berman and Morris Black, a neighbor of his in Galveston, Texas, whom he admitted to shooting and dismembering. He was tried for Black’s murder but claimed self-defense and was acquitted.
Durst’s lawyers have also maintained his innocence in Berman’s death this week in front of prospective jurors.
“It sounds like he did it,” said one potential juror, a driver for Ralph’s.
“Let me clear that up,” defense attorney Chip Lewis replied. “He didn’t kill Kathie Durst. He didn’t kill Susan Berman.”
Also on Thursday, attorneys began the process of seating another 12 people to serve as alternate jurors in the trial, which is expected to last up to five months and feature dozens of witnesses.
Judge Mark E. Windham told the panel to return Wednesday for the anticipated start of opening statements. One woman seemed stunned to make it onto the jury.
“I’m sorry, I just blacked out a little,” she told the judge. Windham reminded her to return Wednesday morning for the lengthy trial.