THE 12 jurors who acquitted Robert A. Durst of murder in Galveston, Tex., last week have taken a pounding in the news media for ignoring his admission that he sliced up his 71-year-old neighbor’s body and dumped the parts in Galveston Bay.
In a headline, The Daily News in New York called them: ”Twelve Who Need to Get a Clue.” The New York Post screamed, ”Run for Your Lives.”
But the only charge before the jury was murder, not manslaughter and not abuse of a corpse, which is, by the way, a misdemeanor. The prosecution called the 2001 death of the neighbor, Morris Black, cold-blooded murder, but Mr. Durst, the 60-year-old New York real estate heir, claimed he was acting in self defense when the two men struggled over a .22-caliber pistol. The gun, he said, accidentally discharged in Mr. Black’s face as they fell to the floor. He said he cut up the body in a drug-addled panic. And the defense put several witnesses on the stand who testified to Mr. Black’s volatile personality.
”I did not kill my best friend,” Mr. Durst told the jury. ”I did dismember him. His death was an accident.”
After the verdict on Tuesday, Chris Lovell and two other jurors conceded that there were plenty of holes in Mr. Durst’s story. But, they said, the prosecution did not prove murder, and it did not disprove Mr. Durst’s self-defense claim.
”It all comes down to reasonable doubt,” said Joanne Gongora, another juror. ”It wasn’t proven how the event happened and that left us with reasonable doubt.”
For the time being, Mr. Durst remains in jail, where he faces bail-jumping charges and up to 10 years in prison.