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Robert Durst Murder Case Witnesses Fear for Safety, Prosecutors Say

Durst is charged with capital murder in the death of a friend found dead inside her Benedict Canyon home on Christmas Eve 2000

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    Prosecutors told the judge that several witnesses in the case have expressed fears about their safety. Kim Baldonado reports for the NBC4 News on Wednesday, Dec. 21, 2016. (Published Wednesday, Dec. 21, 2016)

    Attorneys in a packed Los Angeles courtroom argued over motions Wednesday in the murder case against New York real estate heir and former fugitive Robert Durst.

    The prosecution told the judge that several witnesses in the case have expressed fears about their safety. Prosecutors asked that two witnesses give testimony on videotape before the preliminary hearing due to their ages -- or in case they are killed because they have information about the defendant.

    Durst Interrogation Video Made Public

    [LA] Durst Interrogation Video Made Public

    In the interrogation, Robert Durst admits to being high on meth during some of the filming of the interviews seen on "The Jinx." He also denies and then skirts around whether he killed Susan Berman. Carolyn Johnson reports for the NBC4 News on Monday, Dec.19, 2016.

    (Published Thursday, April 27, 2017)

    One of the witnesses is 86 years old, but prosecutors declined to name the second witness, while insisting the person has "very important information."

    A hearing was set for Jan. 6 to discuss the request, with prosecutors saying they hope to conduct the interviews Feb. 14.

    The prosecution also requested that someone be appointed to review documents that were deemed attorney-client privilege. The judge agreed to appoint a "special master" to review evidence gathered during the investigation

    Durst -- who was profiled in the HBO documentary series "The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst" -- is charged with capital murder in the death of his friend, Susan Berman, who was found dead inside her Benedict Canyon home on Christmas Eve 2000. Prosecutors believe the 55-year-old woman was killed on or about Dec. 23, 2000.

    The murder charge against the 73-year-old Durst includes the special circumstance allegations of murder of a witness and murder while lying in wait, along with gun use allegations. But a prosecutor said in court that the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office does not plan to seek the death penalty against Durst.

    During his first court appearance in Los Angeles Nov. 7, Durst pleaded not guilty.

    Authorities suspect Durst killed Berman because prosecutors in New York's Westchester County were about to interview her about the 1982 disappearance of Durst's first wife, Kathleen "Kathie" McCormack Durst, who was in the process of divorcing him.

    According to court papers, Los Angeles police detectives claim two handwriting experts have linked Durst to an anonymous letter alerting authorities to a "cadaver" at Berman's home.

    Durst was asked last week why he didn't split after documentary filmmakers confronted him in 2012 with the letter anonymously sent to police in 2000 tipping them to the location of Susan Berman's body that matched handwriting on a letter he had sent her years before.

    "You saw the envelopes. How come you didn't ... leave then?" Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney John Lewin asked. "It's mind-boggling to me."

    "I guess inertia," Durst replied. "I just didn't really, really, really think that I was gonna end up arrested."

    The comment was one of several that hinted at his involvement in three suspected killings chronicled in the documentary "The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst," but Durst stopped short of confessing to any of them. The documents detail his interrogation by Los Angeles prosecutors while he was in custody in New Orleans after his arrest March 15 last year on a charge of murder in Berman's death.

    Durst acknowledged he was in the process of fleeing when he was arrested. He was found in a hotel with a false Texas ID, stacks of $100 bills, bags of marijuana, a .38-caliber revolver, a map folded to show Louisiana and Cuba and a flesh-toned latex mask with salt-and-pepper hair.

    "I was the worst fugitive the world has ever met," he said.

    His arrest came the day the final installment of the six-part series aired on HBO. After being confronted with the two identical-looking envelopes, the documentary ended with Durst going into a bathroom where his live microphone captured him muttering to himself: "There it is. You're caught! What the hell did I do? Killed them all, of course."

    Durst told Lewin that he took meth during his interviews with the filmmakers and had smoked pot every day of his life.

    The series traced the mysterious disappearance of his wife, Kathleen Durst, in New York in 1982, his acquittal on murder charges in the 2001 dismemberment killing of a neighbor Galveston, Texas, and the killing of Berman in Los Angeles as she was about to speak with prosecutors investigating his wife's suspected slaying.

    When asked why he cooperated with the makers of "The Jinx," Durst said he felt filmmaker Andrew Jarecki had been sympathetic toward him in a feature-length film, "All Good Things," about his wife's disappearance. He gave Jarecki and his partner, Marc Smerling, two lengthy interviews and provided access to boxes of documents so they would get the full picture of his life.

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