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Convicted murderer Robert Durst’s health is improving, appeal pending

<i>CA Dept. of Corrections and Rehabilitation</i><br/>
CA Dept of Corrections and Rehab
CA Dept. of Corrections and Rehabilitation

By Paul Vercammen, CNN

The health of convicted murderer Robert Durst, 78, subject of the HBO crime documentary “The Jinx,” has been upgraded to fair condition, California prison officials say.

The report seems to mark an improvement in Durst’s health, as just two weeks ago prison officials told CNN Durst’s condition was considered serious. The heir to a New York skyscraper empire is being housed at the California Health Care Facility in Stockton and is battling bladder cancer, among other health ailments.

“The facility cares for the state’s sickest incarcerated men,” said Terry Thornton, spokeswoman for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

Thornton said Durst arrived at the prison medical center on October 27 directly from Los Angeles County Jail.

His legal team reported the 78-year-old convict had contracted Covid-19 in October.

“He looked like death warmed over,” said his former longtime attorney Dick DeGuerin. “He was laying back in his wheelchair and was gasping for breath.”

DeGuerin says he is no longer representing Durst. The pair go back two decades to Galveston, Texas, where the tycoon beat a charge of murdering his neighbor, Morris Black.

DeGuerin and his legal team received accolades by legal experts for helping to convince a Texas jury Durst acted in self-defense, though Durst admitted to killing Black and cutting up his body afterward.

Durst was convicted in September in Southern California of murdering his longtime confidante Susan Berman in 2000. Now Durst will try to get the conviction overturned without DeGuerin and the path forward through the courts appears murky.

“Robert Durst’s appellate issues will be resolved in one of two ways,” said Dina Sayegh Doll, a Southern California legal analyst. “Either it will be decided by the Court of Appeal justices or eventually rendered moot by his failing health.”

In a letter to the second district court of appeals in California obtained by CNN, Christopher Garcia says he is an attorney for Durst but does not represent Durst in his appeal.

Garcia wrote Durst “will retain appellate counsel” but has not made any progress toward getting an appeal lawyer because he is being “treated for serious medical issues… he cannot meet with an attorney or anyone else for that matter.”

Garcia did not respond to CNN’s requests for comment.

“Additionally, no one has provided any information about his current medical condition to his wife, who holds his power of attorney and medical proxy,” the Garcia letter continued.

Durst married Debrah Lee Charatan, a New York real estate broker, in December 2000. Authorities alleged they wed so Charatan could handle Durst’s business affairs while he dealt with his numerous brushes with the law.

Weeks after the wedding, Durst’s good friend Susan Berman was found dead in her Los Angeles area home.

Prosecutors argued Durst executed Berman, because he thought she was going to implicate him in the decades-old disappearance of his first wife Kathie.

On November 1, Durst was indicted on a murder charge in the death of Kathie Durst in New York City suburbs in 1982.

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