By BRIAN MELLEY Associated Press
INGLEWOOD, Calif. (AP) — After an unprecedented 14-month recess in the murder trial of multimillionaire Robert Durst, the judge in the case welcomed back jurors and asked: “Where did we leave off?”
The laughter that followed may have reflected that memories from six days at trial in Los Angeles County Superior Court before the case was adjourned in March last year had dimmed in the shadow of the coronavirus pandemic.
“The question isn’t whether he can endure the rigors of the trial,” attorney Dick DeGuerin said. “It’s whether he can survive at all.”
Durst, 78, an heir to a New York commercial real estate empire, has pleaded not guilty in the killing of his best friend in 2000.
>>>WATCH ON DEMAND: CA v. DURST (2020) OPENING STATEMENTS
The judge planned to spend the first day on trial since March 2020 questioning jurors to make sure they can still serve on the case expected to take four to five more months. The panel had 12 jurors and 10 alternates, one fewer than when the case was recessed.
DeGuerin said measures taken to prevent the spread of the coronavirus would harm Durst’s defense by keeping his lawyers scattered throughout the courtroom and unable to confer. Windham said the measures were required to keep everyone safe, though he and all the lawyers have been vaccinated.
The lead lawyers were seated alone in the front of the courtroom and their co-counsel were spread throughout jury boxes on both sides of the courtroom. Plexiglas panels were placed between the lawyers and a court stenographer.
Jurors were seated in the gallery. They were handed zip-lock bags with note pads, a mask and tissues as they entered the courtroom.
Windham moved the case to a larger courtroom in Inglewood to accommodate the distancing needed to resume.