You can find links to all of CRIME STORY’S coverage of the Robert Durst trial here.
Robert Durst lodged some shockingly critical assertions about his lawyers in a Los Angeles Court today. The assertions were delivered in the form of a letter as Judge Mark E. Windham was wrapping up a hearing for defense motions for a mistrial in advance of the planned May 17 resumption of Durst’s trial for the murder of his friend, Susan Berman.
In Crime Story’s March 18 piece about last month’s Readiness Hearing for the case, we reported the surprise development that Durst sought to personally raise legal issues with Judge Windham at the end of the hearing by trying to deliver a handwritten letter to the Judge. Judge Windham breezily deflected Durst’s offer at that time, as Durst’s attorneys told the Court that they did not believe that it was a good idea for Durst to submit the letter.
At that time, Judge Windham said the following:
VERY WELL. AND COUNSEL, I’LL INVITE COUNSEL, IT HAS SOMETHING TO DO WITH HIS CONDITIONS OR CIRCUMSTANCES THAT MAY BE APPROPRIATELY ADDRESSED EX PARTE… BUT IF YOU GIVE ME A LETTER, I AM GOING TO PUT IT IN THE COURT FILE. SO I, I THINK YOU’RE PROBABLY WISE MR. DURST TO TRUST MS. AMES ON THIS. I’M SURE SHE’LL COMMUNICATE EVERY SINGLE IDEA THAT YOU HAVE IN THAT LETTER, TO ME, IN A WAY THAT COULDN’T COULDN’T HARM YOU IN ANY LEGAL SENSE.
At the end of Monday’s hearing on the defense teams latest motions for mistrial, Durst once again sought to deliver the letter to Judge Windham. This time he succeeded, and just as Judge Windham promised, he put the letter in the court file.
Crime Story has secured a copy of Durst’s letter, and we present below the entirety of that hand-written document, as well as a typed version of the letter for clarity purposes.
Durst begins the letter by misspelling Judge Windham’s name as Judge Whitman. (Durst does that again later in the letter; Windham has been presiding over this case for nearly 6 years now.)
Durst’s primary complaint is about Stipulation 45, a court document filed on January 20 of last year, just days before jury selection began, in which both parties “irrevocably” agreed that the previously recorded “conditional examination testimony” of a number of designated witnesses would be presented by the parties in lieu of live testimony.
Durst seems to misunderstand the nature of the stipulation when he writes:
THE DEFENSE AGREES TO NOT PRESENT TO THE JURY “HEARSAY EVIDENCE THAT KATHY (SIC) DURST WAS SEEN AFTER 01/31/1982.” THE PROSECUTION HAS ACKNOWLEDGED REPEATEDLY USING HEARSAY EVIDENCE. ANY EVIDENCE THAT KATHY DURST WAS SEEN AFTER 01/31/82 MEANS I COULD NOT HAVE KILLED HER.
That is not exactly what the defense had stipulated. Rather the defense had stipulated to the presentation of previously recorded “conditional examination testimony” in lieu of live testimony. It was during some of those examinations that Judge Windham did not allow some hearsay testimony.
Moreover, Durst’s lawyers are under no obligation to get their client’s approval for a stipulation unless that stipulation somehow violates the client’s constitutional rights.
Durst then goes on to assert that such evidence would exonerate him.
IF I COULD NOT HAVE KILLED KATHY (SIC) DURST THEN JOHN LEWIN‘S WHOLE THEORY OF WHY I KILLED SUSAN BERMAN FALLS APART AND I SHOULD BE IMMEDIATELY APOLOGIZED TO AND RELEASED.
Durst culminates this written screed of frustration, by summarizing his anxiety and bewilderment:
I CANNOT IMAGINE WHY THE 4 DEFENSE LAWYERS AGREED TO THE STIPULATION. PERHAPS THEY WERE EXPERIENCING TEMPORARY INSANITY OR SOME FORM OF COLLECTIVE DEMENTIA.
Below is a video of the mistrial motion hearing that was held just before Durst gave the Judge his letter. Judge Windham would later deny the defense team’s motions for a mistrial.