N.Y. millionaire Durst not guilty of murder

Jurors say dismemberment was irrelevant

Jurors who on Tuesday acquitted eccentric New York millionaire Robert Durst in the killing of his 71-year-old neighbor, Morris Black, said they had to put aside the defendant’s admission he dismembered Black’s body and then fled because it was not part of the question they were told to decide.

Durst remained in jail following Tuesday’s not guilty verdict in his murder trial because he still faces a bail jumping charge.

Prosecutors had portrayed Durst as a cold-blooded killer who planned Black’s murder in order to steal his identity.

The defense contended Durst accidentally shot Black in self-defense during a scuffle and then dismembered and dumped his body in Galveston Bay in panic.

Jurors told reporters the prosecution’s evidence was not enough to dispel their reasonable doubt during five days of deliberation, including many arguments in the jury room.

“I changed my mind a dozen times,” said juror Chris Lovell.

Lovell said what finally made up his mind for acquittal was the consistency of the defense story while prosecutors gave them “multiple scenarios” of what happened in Durst’s apartment the day of the killing.

Prosecutions said Durst, who admitted walking around Galveston smoking marijuana and dressed as a woman, wanted to become Morris Black as a way of escaping the attention of New York prosecutors who suspected he might be involved in his first wife’s disappearance.

Black’s corpse was found the day after it was dumped into the bay. The arms, legs and torso washed up on the rocks. Black’s head has never been found.

Defense attorneys said Black and Durst were friends but Black began acting erratically and abusively. They said Durst broke off the relationship and told Black not to come to his apartment again.

They contended Black sneaked into Durst’s apartment. Durst feared for his life and Black was accidentally shot as both men struggled for a gun.

Durst testified he accidentally shot Black, then panicked and decided to cut up the body, dispose of it and leave Galveston.

“I could understand Durst’s panic,” said juror Joanne Gongora. “I can understand his drug-induced state. I can understand his life.”

Lovell, when asked if he was certain Durst was not guilty, said, “With what was presented to me, absolutely, positively 100 percent.”

If convicted, Durst, 60, could have been sentenced to from five to 99 years in prison and fined of up to $10,000.

Prosecutors and lawyers are now preparing for a bond hearing to decide if Durst will be freed until his trial for jumping bond. Durst was a fugitive for six weeks after he posted bond. He was captured in Pennsylvania after shoplifting a sandwich even though he had hundreds of dollars in his pocket. He could be sentenced to two to 10 years if convicted on that charge.

Durst’s family runs The Durst Organization, a privately held, billion-dollar New York company.



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