Robert Durst's Attorney: Heir's Latest Legal Troubles Are 'Tough' Dick DeGuerin has handled a range of difficult, high-profile cases, from Tom DeLay to David Koresh. Now his longtime client, Durst — subject of HBO's The Jinx — is accused of murder ... again.
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Robert Durst's Attorney: Heir's Latest Legal Troubles Are 'Tough'

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Robert Durst's Attorney: Heir's Latest Legal Troubles Are 'Tough'

Robert Durst's Attorney: Heir's Latest Legal Troubles Are 'Tough'

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RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

In New Orleans, Robert Durst is back in court today expected to plead guilty to a gun charge. Durst is the real estate heir accused of an execution-style murder back in 2000, a forgotten crime revived by the documentary "The Jinx." His trial is expected to draw enormous attention and throw a spotlight on his longtime lawyer. From Texas and Marfa Public Radio, Tom Michael has this profile.

DICK DEGUERIN: (Singing) I had to tell her to kill her tellers...

TOM MICHAEL, BYLINE: Attorney Dick DeGuerin projects the classic image of a Texan.

DEGUERIN: (Singing) To the West Texas Waltz.

MICHAEL: He's strumming a guitar with friends around the fire on New Year's Day at his vacation home in Marfa, Texas. He dons a Stetson Open Road, just like the cowboy hat worn by former President Lyndon B. Johnson, a friend of his father.

DEGUERIN: He was a giant of a man and had these giant hands. And he'd pick me up and put me on his knee.

MICHAEL: He takes on tough cases defending former Texas Congressman Tom DeLay, after a campaign finance scandal, disgraced businessman Allen Stanford, and outlaw country singer Billy Joe Shaver, after Shaver shot someone in the face, and, this man.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

DAVID KORESH: 'Cause this ain't America anymore when ATF has that kind of power to come into anybody's home and kick doors down and things like that.

MICHAEL: It's 1993, and that's cult leader David Koresh who for 51 days was in a standoff with federal authorities at his religious compound in Waco. DeGuerin was sympathetic.

DEGUERIN: I saw that as a terrible abuse of authority in the way that the raid was conducted on an otherwise peaceful group of religious people.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Well, as you can see, the parts of the building have collapsed. The fire has indeed engulfed the vast majority of this compound.

DEGUERIN: So they had a pretty stash of cash. It all burned up, as it turned out, and I didn't get any of it.

MICHAEL: DeGuerin would re-enter the national spotlight a decade later when he defended a recluse who disguised himself his as a woman then killed and dismembered his neighbor, dumping him into Galveston Bay. That was Robert Durst. The trial in 2003 was sensational. It brought DeGuerin celebrity lawyer status and it cemented Durst's reputation for the bizarre.

DEGUERIN: For instance, coming to Galveston and renting an apartment dressed as a mute woman and the cutting up and disposing of the body afterwards.

MICHAEL: But the key to that case and to a lot of DeGuerin's work was reading the jurors and having them forget the surrounding intrigue and focus on one question.

DEGUERIN: If you kill somebody in self-defense, does it change that if later you panic and dispose of the body in some way?

MICHAEL: Durst was acquitted then, but the defendant who is DeGuerin's greatest legal success is now his biggest challenge.

DEGUERIN: When we were through with that case, I thought, well, you know, he's going to go live a quiet life. He didn't like being Robert Durst. He wanted to be anonymous as much as possible. And that would be the last I heard of him - until this TV series.

MICHAEL: He's talking about the HBO documentary "The Jinx" from last spring.

(SOUNDBITE OF DOCUMENTARY, "THE JINX")

ROBERT DURST: I did not tell the whole truth, nobody tells the whole truth.

MICHAEL: That's Robert Durst in the series, which re-examined the execution-style killing of his friend, Susan Berman. In the final scene, he mumbles, what did I do? Killed them all, of course. The weekend the final episode aired, Durst was charged with her murder.

DEGUERIN: I've had a lot of hard cases. I enjoy hard cases. And yes, this one is tough.

MICHAEL: Durst is expected to be extradited to Los Angeles to be arraigned on the murder charge. For NPR News, I'm Tom Michael in Marfa, Texas.

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