Robert Durst was placed on a ventilator after contracting COVID-19, his lawyer said on Saturday.
Durst, 78, was sentenced to life without parole Thursday for the murder of his close friend, Susan Berman, inside his Benedict Canyon home in 2000. The estate heir was in “very bad condition. state “during the sentencing hearing, according to its lead defense lawyer, Dick DeGuerin.
“He was having trouble breathing and he was having trouble communicating,” DeGuerin said in an email to The Times. “He looked worse than I have ever seen him and I was very worried about him.”
DeGuerin confirmed that Durst had been hospitalized and placed on a ventilator. Durst was held in a wing of USC Medical Center under the surveillance of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department throughout the trial, but it was not immediately clear if he was still there or when or where he was infected with the coronavirus.
Calls and emails to the sheriff’s department, a court spokesperson and the Los Angeles County attorney’s office were not immediately returned on Saturday. Dozens of people gathered in a courtroom on the eighth floor of the airport courthouse for Durst’s conviction earlier this week and it was not immediately clear if anyone else associated with the procedure had contracted the virus.
Durst’s health has been a problem throughout the trial. He was not in court the day jurors found him guilty of murdering Berman last month because he had been exposed to someone who tested positive for COVID-19. He was also briefly hospitalized in June after suffering an undisclosed medical incident.
The 78-year-old spent the majority of the trial sitting in a wheelchair. In court records, Durst’s lawyers have repeatedly called for the trial to be quashed, saying Durst was too ill to testify in his own defense.
A Cedars-Sinai Medical Center doctor who examined Durst previously said he was “deeply malnourished” and at risk of “sudden death” from high potassium levels, and said Durst had suffered a “mini-stroke” at a court hearing in 2019.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Mark Windham dismissed each petition, dismissing the doctor’s testimony as “activism.” Durst ultimately spent 15 days on the witness stand at trial, often engaging in tense discussions with Deputy Dist. Atty. John Lewin in cross-examination.