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Will Durst’s Poor Health Cause a Mistrial? Jeff Wolf Weighs in on Law & Crime

Since May, Robert Durst’s defense team has argued that their client’s deteriorating health was so extreme that he could not be prosecuted. Durst has both bladder and esophageal cancer and has sat in a wheelchair throughout court proceedings.

On more than one occasion, Durst’s health has resulted in delays, prompting motions for a mistrial by the defense. Is Durst too sick to testify in his own defense? Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Mark Windham thinks Durst is just fine.

Nevertheless, questions about Durst’s mental and physical faculties have come into question. In a recent interview with Angenette Levy on the Law & Crime Trial Network, Denver defense attorney Jeffrey Wolf discussed the rigorous nature of testifying in court.

“I think that there’s a big difference between being able to assist in your own defense…and being able to physically handle the rigors of testifying,” explained Wolf.

“Because when he gets up there, he’s going to get up there first with his lawyer, and they’re going to question him…but what they don’t get to control is what Lewin does on cross-examination,” Wolf continued. “He’s going to be sitting there playing mental tennis with a worthy adversary who is hell bent on hanging him from the highest tree. The stress that that’s going to cause on his cardiovascular system…is astounding. His ability to stand up for moments at a time, to pipe up with a sentence here or there, does not mean he’s going to be able to physically handle one, two, three, who knows how many hours of cross-examination.”

Watch the full video for extended commentary from Jeff Wolf or for more details about the Robert Durst murder trial.

Jeff Wolf Discuses New Testimony in “Fake Uber” Murder Trial on Law & Crime

Samantha Josephson was reportedly last seen alive around 2:00 a.m. in the Five Points region of downtown Columbia, South Carolina, on March 29, 2019. According to reports, Josephson got into the back of a black Impala, but “then her Uber was cancelled.”

When police pulled over Nathaniel David Rowland, who was nearby and driving a car that matched the description, they found blood all over the vehicle. Rowland is currently on trial in for Josephson’s kidnapping and murder.

Last week, evidence was introduced that was procured from the defendant’s ex-girlfriend’s house. Maria Howard, the ex-girlfriend, took the stand and seemed to muddy the waters even more with various accounts of her activities with the defendant on March 29. The evidence, which includes bloody trash bags, a weapon, and clothing have also raised questions about her involvement. 

In a recent interview on Law & Crime Network, Denver defense lawyer Jeff Wolf was asked whether the defense or prosecution utilized Howard’s recent testimony best:

“I think they both utilized it well,” explained Wolf. “Because what you have is the prosecution laying out all of these suspicious things that were going on during this interaction with her… obviously she’s his friend, maybe a little more, we don’t really know. And then from there you have the defense trying to poke holes in the timeline: what was going on here? How much time was there really for all these things that you say happened to happen? And why were you just going along with this…noticing all these strange things and then you just go to work? You don’t call anybody? You don’t do anything? There’s clearly some evidence of something going on in the back of this car…you did nothing about it…you gave him [Rowland] a key to your house, you went home to him…and so maybe she doesn’t have as clean of hands as she would say she does.”

Watch the full video for extended commentary from Jeff Wolf or for more details about the case.

Robert Durst Murder Trial Continues with New Testimony from Susan Giordano

During a recent interview with Angenette Levy on the Law & Crime Network, Jeff Wolf discussed recent testimony heard in California at the Robert Durst murder trial.

Susan Giordano, longtime friend of Robert Durst, testified last week in a trial in which Durst is accused of the December 2000 killing of Susan Berman. Berman was allegedly killed for having information related to Durst’s wife’s 1982 disappearance.

According to her recent testimony, over the course of their friendship, Durst had gifted Giordano more than $300,000. Giordano also said she “didn’t ask questions” when she was asked to store more than 60 boxes of Durst’s personal belongings in her basement or when Durst asked her to mail boxes containing thousands of dollars in cash.

“What they’re trying to do here is say: this witness has dirty hands,” explained Wolf. “This is a witness who is here to help Bob Durst and that’s what they were arguing about. They called this adverse witness and they’re going to try to prevent the defense from cross examining…They’re basically playing a very, very dirty game of pool by using the statutes against the defense, so they can get this friendly witness for the defense to look like a fool on direct and then prevent a meaningful cross.”

Watch the full video for extended commentary from Jeff Wolf or for more details about the case.

Jeff Wolf Discusses Robert Durst Murder Trial on the Morning Docket with Jesse Weber

Last Friday, Denver defense lawyer Jeffrey Wolf appeared on the Morning Docket with Jesse Weber to discuss the Robert Durst Murder Trial.

Durst is on trial for allegedly killing his friend Susan Berman because she was planning to speak to authorities about the disappearance of Durst’s first wife.

Last week in court, Durst could be heard speaking to his attorney and said he planned to “make a fool” out of Deputy District Attorney John Lewin when he (Durst) testifies.

“It is a trial lawyer’s nightmare to have your client talk loud enough for everyone to hear it. And this is something that’s been rampant on WebEx trials over the last year and a half,” explained Wolf.

WebEx is a web conferencing company, and its services have been customized to meet the needs of courtrooms across the country, particularly amid the pandemic. 

Wolf went on to describe how people tuning in to proceedings via WebEx can text their colleagues in court with audio gleaned from the web conferencing service.

The Durst case presents multiple battlefronts for the defense, the least of which involve new technology in the courtroom. Durst is suspected of involvement in two murders and confessed to a third, but was acquitted at trial after claiming self-defense in 2001.

“It’s an absolute nightmare,” said Wolf. “You don’t want to have to fight these battles…and the rules of evidence say that you shouldn’t have to fight these battles. And that’s the crux of this entire case and the prosecution’s theory…”

Watch the full video for extended commentary from Jeff Wolf or for more details about the case.

Jeff Wolf Discusses the Robert Durst Murder Trial on Law & Crime

Robert Durst, a New York real estate mogul, is one of the most notorious defendants in the country, following the 2015 HBO documentary miniseries: The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst. The documentary chronicles the disappearance of Durst’s wife Kathie (1982), the murder of his friend Susan Berman (2000), and the death and dismemberment of Durst’s neighbor Morris Black (2001). Durst was suspected of involvement in the first two murders and confessed to the third, but was acquitted at trial after claiming self-defense. 

This week, after a long delay due to COVID-19, Durst, now 78, sits in a wheelchair in a courtroom in Los Angeles for the death of his long-time friend Susan Berman.

The defense called the 14-month delay “the longest adjournment in U.S. history featuring the same jury.” And they argued that the jurors could have forgotten information from earlier in the trial.

In a recent interview on Law & Crime, a multi-platform live trial network, Denver defense lawyer Jeff Wolf discussed the veracity of allowing jurors to read transcripts of previous court testimony.

“It’s highly unusual…jurors all the time ask for a transcript of what someone has said, and the judge routinely tells them they have to rely on their memory. Because of what COVID has done to this trial…[it’s] a huge problem. The jury heard this testimony and now they get to read it again. It’s beyond the pale.”

For cases like Durst’s, which now spans four decades, many of the witnesses have passed away or are unavailable to testify. Wolf went on to discuss the rules of hearsay: an out-of-court statement offered to prove the truth of whatever it asserts.

“It tends to happen in older cases because witnesses are less available,” explained Wolf. “So, when you’re talking about the rule of hearsay, it’s a very complex rule…The first thing you have to determine is…is this actually hearsay or is it being used for a purpose other than the truth of the matter asserted. If it is being used for the truth of the matter asserted, then there’s one set of rules for when the declarant is available and one set for when they’re unavailable…and then both of those have a bunch of exceptions that fall under them for when they’re going to be allowed. The exceptions for when the declarant is unavailable are much looser than when the declarant is available.”

Watch the full video for extended commentary from Jeffrey Wolf or for more details about the case.

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