Robert Durst due in court in New Orleans on gun charges

Reuters News
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Posted: Apr 02, 2015 7:01 AM

By Kathy Finn

NEW ORLEANS (Reuters) - Robert Durst, the real estate scion awaiting extradition to California to face a murder charge, is due in a New Orleans courtroom on Thursday on weapons charges his attorneys are expected to say stem from an improper search.

Durst, recently featured in the HBO documentary "The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst," has sought to speed his extradition to California, where he has been charged with the 2000 murder of longtime friend Susan Berman and could face the death penalty.

His lawyers argue that his arrest and the initial search of his hotel room last month without a warrant in New Orleans were improper, and that investigators wrongly interviewed him without counsel present.

Durst was arrested on charges of possession of a weapon by a felon and possession of a gun with a controlled substance, which carry a combined maximum sentence of 30 years in prison, but has yet to be formally charged.

The HBO documentary showed Durst being presented with evidence his handwriting appeared to match that of Berman's likely killer.

The 71-year-old Durst's voice was subsequently captured on a microphone saying that he had "killed them all."

Long a suspect in the disappearance of his wife, Kathleen Durst, in 1982 in New York, Durst was acquitted in the dismemberment killing of his neighbor in Texas in 2003.

The final HBO episode aired one day after Durst's arrest at a New Orleans hotel, where he was staying under an alias and had over $42,000 in cash, a revolver, marijuana and a latex mask that could fit over his neck and head, authorities said.

FBI agents arrested Durst over fears he would flee the country, the agency has said.

Durst, who prosecutors have said is worth up to $100 million, has long been estranged from his powerful family, which has major New York real estate holdings.

He has been held without bail at a facility for mentally ill inmates about 70 miles (110 km) from New Orleans, with local authorities having labeled him a suicide risk.

(Reporting by Kathy Finn in New Orleans; Writing by Jonathan Kaminsky; Editing by Peter Cooney)