Concerns that Los Angeles courts are not yet equipped to deal with the COVID-19 virus have halted the case against 76-year-old alleged murderer Robert Durst until April 6, the Los Angeles Times reports. The millionaire heir to a Manhattan real estate fortune is accused of killing his friend, writer Susan Berman, in 2000 because she knew too much about the 1982 disappearance of his wife, Kathleen, whose body has never been found.
In an attempt to refuse to testify in person, Durst’s brother, Thomas Durst, 70, a Bay Area resident, gave a doctor’s note to the district attorney’s office advising against “any travel, particularly airplane travel.”
When the judge and the D.A. shot him down, the younger Durst said he was “amazed at the cavalier attitude” toward coronavirus by the L.A. court system, and last week wore latex gloves when he testified at the Airport Courthouse near LAX.
Attorneys have complained that the court system is not prepared for the emergency, citing scant hand sanitizer for public, no sanitizing wipes to clean security stations, and elevators jam packed even as officials call for “social distancing.”
On Sunday, the Los Angeles County Superior Court announced that new criminal and civil trials will be postponed by at least 30 days; courts have also excused jurors over the age of 60.
Presiding judge Kevin Brazile said that for trials already underway, individual judges would decide whether to postpone proceedings or declare a mistrial, and that self-help centers at courthouses would also be closed.
Asked how he felt about being in L.A. to testify, Thomas Durst said, “I hate it. This is a horrible experience, and I’m fearful of my brother.”
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