Defending Multimillionire Robert Durst: Trial Lawyer Norm Pattis Explains How

Multimillionaire Robert Durst, the subject of an HBO documentary, acquitted of a Texas murder charge in 2003, now faces gun charges in New Orleans, murder charges in Los Angeles, and a revived murder investigation in New York. The HBO documentary, “The Jinx,” included bathroom ramblings by Durst that may amount to a confession of sorts. New England trial lawyer Norm Pattis analyzes the legal morass in this report.

Norm Pattis

Norm Pattis

As to the remarks Durst made on camera for HBO, Pattis notes that they are certainly not helpful to defense counsel. However, it’s not clear that they are a confession in any traditional sense. “Now, was he being sarcastic and flip, or serious?” Pattis says that the jury, as fact finders, will get to decide how those words should be interpreted. In any event, the statements will be admissible against Durst at trial.

Considering the issue of defending a defendant like Durst, who faces charges in a number of jurisdictions, Pattis explains that a defendant in this situation is entitled to be tried in any jurisdiction only for charges pending in that jurisdiction. A trial lawyer needs to divide up the various charges and make sure that the state does not get to admit evidence of prior offenses, which could sink the defense. “It can be done, it’s just difficult.”

Pattis says that he would never advise a client that it is a good idea to be interviewed by HBO. “I get the distinct impression that Mr. Durst follows his own drummer.” A lawyer can’t always keep a client from making moves that harm his case.

In the Texas murder case, Durst managed to get acquitted on the basis of self-defense, even though he dismembered the victim’s body. Pattis suggests that this was “brilliant lawyering.” A self-defense theory usually requires that the defendant stop the defending himself after the threat is gone.

Pattis says that, if he were suddenly called upon to join the defense team, his first step would be to make sure that the payment arrived and the check cleared the bank. “And then I’d go visit him and make sure he had both oars in the water.”

Norman Pattis is a leading New England based trial lawyer. He represents people who face powerful foes. His relentless voice levels the playing field for individuals against prosecutors in serious criminal cases, for people or families who experience catastrophic injuries against uncaring insurance giants, for victims of corporate malfeasance, and other people who face the loss of liberty or property. He is a veteran of more than 100 jury trials, many resulting in acquittals for people charged with serious crimes, multi-million dollar civil rights and discrimination verdicts, and scores of cases favorably settled. Attorneys from California to New York refer their clients to the Pattis Law Firm, and they seek out Norm as co-counsel in challenging high stakes cases across the U.S. The Legal Broadcast Network is a featured network of the Sequence Media Group.