GALVESTON, Texas – Jury deliberations began Wednesday in the trial of real estate heir Robert Durst (search), after prosecutors told jurors that murder was the only explanation for the death of a man whose dismembered remains were dumped in Galveston Bay.
After attorneys spent several hours wrapping up nearly six weeks of testimony in closing arguments, the jury deliberated for more than an hour before breaking until Thursday.
Prosecutor Joel Bennett told jurors that Durst's high-profile defense team failed to explain how the death of 71-year-old Morris Black (search), Durst's neighbor, could be anything but an intentional killing.
"We're still waiting for those answers to be provided, but they're never going to come because there is no answer," Bennett said. "The only [explanation] of these bizarre and grotesque facts is that he murdered Morris Black and tried to get away with it."
At the defense's request, jurors will consider only a murder charge, which carries a potential sentence of five to 99 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000. The defense could have asked the judge to allow jurors to consider a lesser charge, such as manslaughter, in addition to murder.
Defense lawyer Chip Lewis told jurors in his closing that prosecutors failed to disprove self-defense or an accidental shooting, meaning "there is no proof that this was an intentional, knowing, cold-blooded murder as they have charged."
Lewis noted that Durst wasn't charged with dismembering a corpse or destroying evidence.
District Attorney Kurt Sistrunk said prosecutors didn't have to prove a motive. "Things like what this killer did are never going to make sense," he said.
The highlight of the trial was when Durst, 60, testified in his own defense for nearly four days, telling jurors he and Black were friends but had a falling-out after Black exhibited continued aggressive behavior. Durst and other witnesses testified Black often got into fights with people.
Durst said that on the morning of Sept. 28, 2001, he found Black illegally inside his apartment. When he saw Black armed with a gun he had hidden, Durst said he confronted him and the gun inexplicably went off during a scuffle.
The cross-dressing millionaire said he panicked after Black's death and, in an alcohol-fueled daze, cut up the body. Authorities found everything except Black's head.
After disposing of Black's remains, Durst fled to New Orleans, but later returned to Galveston and was arrested. He posted bail and became a fugitive for six weeks before his recapture in Pennsylvania after trying to shoplift a $5 hoagie and bandages.
Durst had moved to Galveston in November 2000 disguised as a mute woman to escape media scrutiny in New York after the investigation into his first wife's 1982 disappearance was reopened. He first met Black in his disguise but later dropped the masquerade and they became friends.
Durst's family runs the Durst Organization (search), a privately held, billion-dollar New York company.