During the trial, evidence was introduced that placed Mr. Durst at Ms. Berman’s house in December 2000. For nearly 20 years, Mr. Durst had denied that he was even in Los Angeles at the time of her killing. He also had denied that he was the author of an anonymous note sent to the Police Department alerting officers to the presence of a “cadaver” at Ms. Berman’s home, on the edge of Beverly Hills.
In hearings that took place before the trial, Mr. Durst’s lawyers vigorously disputed evidence by document examiners who had identified Mr. Durst as the author of that note. But a friend of Mr. Durst’s, Emily Altman, under withering questioning by Mr. Lewin, blurted out that Mr. Durst had told her he was in Beverly Hills at the time of Ms. Berman’s death.
On the eve of the trial, Mr. Durst’s lawyers acknowledged that their client had both written the note and had found Ms. Berman in a pool of blood inside her home. Still, in his closing arguments, David Chesnoff, one of Mr. Durst’s lawyers, said prosecutors had not made their case against his client. “No evidence is evidence,” he told jurors. “All you have is this theory. It’s a theory they want to rely upon that somehow Susan Berman and Bob Durst were in this situation where Susan had something on him.”
Mr. Durst’s brother Douglas, who oversees the Durst family’s $8 billion real estate empire, was a witness for the prosecution, as was Nick Chavin, a longtime friend of Mr. Durst’s.
Mr. Chavin testified that Mr. Durst contacted him in December 2014 to say he wanted to talk about their mutual friend, Ms. Berman, and about his first wife, Kathie McCormack Durst. As the two men stood on the sidewalk outside a restaurant in New York, Mr. Chavin asked Mr. Durst what he wanted to say about Ms. Berman. According to Mr. Chavin’s testimony, Mr. Durst responded in his once characteristically gravelly voice: “It was her or me. I had no choice.”
In his closing arguments, Habib Balian, one of the prosecutors, would repeat those words: “The case can be summed up in nine simple words. ‘It was her or me. I had no choice.’ That says it all.”