The reboot of Robert Durst’s murder trial continued Thursday with a top medical examiner saying that Susan Berman – the woman Durst is accused of killing in December 2000 – may not have seen her killer coming because she was shot in the back of the head.
Riverside County’s chief forensic pathologist, Mark Fajardo, who reviewed Berman’s autopsy in 2015, confirmed that was his theory while being questioned by Durst’s lawyer Dick DeGuerin.
Fajardo qualified that it was highly likely that Berman did not see her killer coming because Berman was shot with a 9 mm pistol “within an inch” of the back of her head. He emphasized that that in no way presupposed that Berman knew her killer.
Robert Durst holds a device to read the real-time spoken script as he appears in the courtroom of Judge Mark E. Windham as attorneys begin opening statements in the trial of the real estate scion charged with murder of longtime friend Susan Berman, at Los Angeles County Superior Court, Tuesday, May 18, 2021, in Inglewood, Calif. (Los Angeles Times via AP)
Asked by DeGuerin whether the possibility that Berman was on her knees and cleaning up after her dogs at the time she was shot was consistent with the evidence Fajardo reviewed, he said: “That is a possibility, certainly.”
Fajardo then confirmed his theory that because of the way the bullet entered the back of Berman’s head, it is a “possibility” she didn’t know she was about to be killed.
At the time Durst was arrested in New Orleans in 2015, Fajardo ran the Los Angeles coroner’s office. He testified previously that at the time, he reviewed the report on Berman’s December 2000 autopsy; the pathologist who originally conducted Berman’s autopsy has retired.
Durst, 78, is suspected of killing Berman in her Los Angeles home in December 2000 to keep her from talking to police about what she supposedly knew about the disappearance of Durst’s wife, Kathie Durst, nearly two decades before in New York City.
Robert Durst has pleaded not guilty, and his lawyer said he doesn’t know who killed Berman, who was his longtime confidante and once an unofficial spokeswoman when Kathie Durst vanished.
Defense attorney Dick DeGuerin, center standing, addresses Judge Mark Windham, center in back, alongside fellow defense attorney David Z. Chesnoff, left, and Deputy District Attorney John Lewin, at right, representing the prosecution, during the murder trial of Robert Durst Monday, May 17, 2021, in Inglewood, Calif. (Los Angeles Times via AP)
Deputy District Attorney John Lewin has said Berman’s killing and Robert Durst’s admission that he fatally shot and dismembered a drifter in Texas, Morris Black, in 2001 are both connected to the mystery of Kathie Durst’s disappearance.
The court heard from two additional witnesses Thursday: Drs. Alicia Landman-Reiner and Helen Bloch, both of whom were Kathie Durst’s classmates at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
Bloch, who has decades of experience treating domestic violence victims, testified that she remembered Kathie Durst once coming to campus with a black eye – an injury she tried to cover up with sunglasses – some time before her disappearance.
Robert Durst has long been suspected of killing Kathie Durst but has never been charged and has denied any role in her disappearance. She has never been found.
The trial began in March 2020 but was adjourned after six days because of the COVID-19 pandemic. It resumed this week in Inglewood with lawyers making abbreviated opening statements to remind jurors about the evidence. The court will reconvene at 9:15 a.m. Monday morning.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.