Wealthy Manhattan real estate scion Robert Durst, a suspect in investigations of several slayings over the years, pleaded not guilty on Monday in a Los Angeles courtroom to a charge of murder in the fatal shooting 16 years ago of a close friend.
His arraignment came seven months after Durst, 73, the subject of last year’s HBO documentary series “The Jinx,” pleaded guilty in New Orleans to a federal weapons charge in a separate case and was sentenced to seven years in prison.
Durst was previously tried and acquitted for the 2003 killing and dismemberment of a Texas neighbor and was under investigation in the 1982 disappearance and presumed slaying of his wife, Kathleen, in New York.
He stands accused in Los Angeles Superior Court of fatally shooting Susan Berman, a writer and longtime confidante, on Dec. 23, 2000, because of what she knew about the demise of his wife two decades earlier.
Durst, wearing a neck brace, was rolled into Los Angeles County Superior Court in a wheelchair for the arraignment, during which Deputy District Attorney John Lewin said prosecutors would not seek the death penalty if Durst were convicted.
One of Durst’s lawyers formally entered a not-guilty plea on his behalf to a single count of first-degree murder. But Durst himself professed his innocence to the court moments later.
Asked by Judge Mark Windham whether he could understand the proceedings when defense attorneys complained Durst was having trouble hearing, the defendant said, “I hear fine now.”
He then added in a slightly quavering voice: “I do want to say here and now, though, I am not guilty. I did not kill Susan Berman.”
(Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles; Writing by Steve Gorman; Editing by Chris Reese and Jonathan Oatis)