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Durst Found Not Guilty

Aired November 11, 2003 - 11:07   ET


DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: We want to get in this developing story out of Galveston, Texas. There has been a verdict in the trial of New York real estate heir Robert Durst. We have our Ed Lavandera standing by as we await that verdict in a Galveston, Texas courtroom -- Ed.
ED LAVANDERA, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Daryn. Well I understand that the jury is making its way into the courtroom, in the courthouse you see behind me here in Galveston, Texas. We'll listen to them right now.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Will the defendant please rise. For the verdict of the jury is such. "We, the jury, find the defendant, Robert Durst, not guilty."

Is there anything the attorneys would like to say at this point?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, your honor.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, ladies and gentlemen.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We also thank the jury for your sacrifice and your time.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you for all your time, attention and sacrifice. (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All right. Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, this is what the procedure is that we're going to follow. First of all, we're going take you back into the jury room and the clerk is going to give you whatever work excuses you need. At that point in time I'm going discuss with you your options as to whether or not you wish to discuss your...

KAGAN: All right, we're going cut in here as the judge gives instructions to the departing jury. But the look on Robert Durst's face tells the whole story, a look of incredible relief. He's just been declared -- well, we're losing that picture there, so maybe we'll bring out Ed Lavandera in.

But Robert Durst, the New York real estate heir, declared not guilty in the murder trial of his neighbor, Morris Black. This took place back in September of 2001. The defense all along has said that -- they admitted in fact that Robert Durst did kill his neighbor, but they said it was an act of self-defense. And apparently, Ed, the jury agreed with the defense.

LAVANDERA: Well, Daryn, I imagine -- I can't see Robert Durst's face but I imagine that he must be incredibly stunned. His defense team has been working on this case for quite a while, the last couple years. And a lot of people say that he has some of the best attorneys. I was speaking to one of them yesterday. And he said he's gotten -- they have gotten a lot of support from the Durst family and what a difference it could make. This the words from the defense attorney.

One of the defense attorneys telling me yesterday that when they can spend a lot of money and put on the kind of defense that they know how to put on, then it really does make a difference. These attorneys that Robert Durst have are some the best and most well-known. Not only in the Houston area, but in the state of Texas. I imagine there will be a lot of talk about just how -- what kind of job these attorneys have done for Robert Durst in this particular case.

Now, what happens to Robert Durst. We'll wait to see here in the next couple minutes, next couple of hours what will happen next. But my understanding is Robert Durst has already been indicted on a bail jumping charge. So doesn't appear very likely that Robert Durst will just walk out of this courthouse here today.

And there's also some inclination that the prosecutors in this case might try to pursue other charges. There has been some talk of tampering with evidence. Clearly he admitted to that throughout the course of this trial. Admitting that he cut up the body of Morris Black and dumped into the Galveston Bay. So how those issues play out here in the next couple of days will also be something to watch.

So we imagine we will hear a lot from the gag order that has been in place in this case for quite a while now. It will be lifted. The attorneys in this case will be permitted to talk, as will the prosecutors. We imagine that the prosecutors will be very emotional, putting on in their closing arguments as you might have heard in the piece we put together, aired before the verdict was read, talking about -- defense attorneys, how they had played up in this case that what Robert Durst did after Morris Black died didn't really matter.

What mattered was how it was that Morris Black came to be shot. That he was -- in the defense's eyes -- that he was in Robert Durst's apartment illegally after Robert Durst had told him not to be there and that Robert Durst feared for his life.

A lot of evidence supporting that. And a lot of the prosecution evidence centered around what Robert Durst did and how he behaved after Morris Black was killed. On several occasions using Morris Black's I.D. to check into hotel rooms in New Orleans and rent cars throughout the South.

But clearly something the jury weighed on heavily as they had been deliberating since late Wednesday afternoon, spending a little more that three days deliberating in this case. But returning a verdict here today of not guilty, much to the shock, as I might imagine, of Robert Durst and his attorneys as well as the prosecutor. KAGAN: His face did appear to say that he expected a different verdict. Yet again, we're going play this verdict for our viewers, once again. But keep in mind that this is Robert Durst, this is a man who admitted to killing Morris Black and admitted to dismembering and still found not guilty by this Texas jury. Let's take a look one more time. It happened just moments ago.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: ... the verdict of the jury is such. "We, the jury, find the defendant, Robert Durst, not guilty."


KAGAN: And with that, you can see the huge look, the sigh. It was an audible sigh of relief. Want you to put something else in perspective for us, Ed. And that is the part of Texas that we're talking about, in terms of it being prosecution country.

LAVANDERA: Well, I don't know about that in Galveston. And clearly Houston has a reputation of that. That's where these attorneys usually work in. Houston definitely has a reputation of being (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

But here in Galveston, which is some 30 or 40 miles south of the Houston area, perhaps things a little bit more different. As I've heard a lot of people say it's more laid back kind of place. A coastal Gulf beach town. (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

That's one of the reasons Robert Durst says he came here, because he thought this would be an easy place to kind of hide away. As he said throughout the course of this testimony, he was able to come down here and dress up as a woman and escape the life in New York that he had so desperately been trying to seek.

There had also been some illusions in this case from Robert Durst's attorneys that he also suffers from a mild form of -- it's escaping me. He suffers from a mild form of autism. It also inhibits his ability to react rationally in stressful situations.

That was one of the things that this defense team put forth before this jury as well. How that played in, hopefully some of the jurors will speak to the news media and share their thoughts on how deliberations went and how some of the issues like that played out for them in their deliberation.

But there had been quotes also in some of the New York newspapers, who had talked to the two alternate jurors that sat in on the testimony throughout most of this and who were released after the jury started deliberating in this case. Those two jurors telling some New York newspapers and saying they would have found Robert Durst guilty in this case. Saying that they didn't find his story believable.

Remember, Robert Durst spent almost four days on the witness stand during this case. A lot of this feeling here was that this jury -- this case would hinge on whether the jurors found his testimony to be believable. You know in these cases the jurors can throw out any or all of the testimony they deem to be believable from a witness.

So clearly in this case, I don't want to get too far ahead of ourselves in putting words in these jurors' mouth, they must have put some validity in the words of Robert Durst in the several days he spent testifying in this murder trial.

KAGAN: It will be interesting to see what any of the jurors have to say about what happened. Ed, we'll have you stand by.


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