Judge: Robert Durst’s friends must testify at murder hearing

Robert Durst
FILE - In this Dec. 21, 2016, file photo, real estate heir Robert Durst sits in a courtroom during a hearing in Los Angeles. A retired New York police detective says the missing wife of New York real estate heir Robert Durst once went to her neighbor's in pajamas and said her husband beat her and she feared he would kill her. James Varian testified Tuesday, April 25, 2017, that a neighbor reported Kathleen Durst had knocked on her Manhattan penthouse bedroom window for help. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, Pool, File)

MINEOLA, N.Y. (AP) — Two of Robert Durst’s longtime friends have been ordered by a New York judge to testify at a pretrial hearing in the eccentric millionaire’s murder case in California this month.

Christopher Quinn, an acting state Supreme Court justice, found that Stewart and Emily Altman, who are from Long Island, are “material and necessary witnesses” in the Durst case. Stewart Altman has been a friend of Durst’s since their high school days in the early 1960s.

Durst, who was featured in the HBO documentary “The Jinx,” is facing murder charges in Los Angeles in the 2000 killing of his longtime friend, Susan Berman. Prosecutors suspect Durst shot Berman because he feared she might divulge incriminating information regarding the 1982 disappearance of Durst’s first wife, Kathleen.

Durst, 74, was never charged in Kathleen Durst’s disappearance and has denied killing either Berman or his first wife.

In “The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst,” he is heard muttering that he “killed them all.” He was arrested in New Orleans in 2015 just before the final episode aired.

Attorneys for the Altmans argued that their testimony is not necessary at a pretrial hearing. Elizabeth Johnson, one of their attorneys, said Wednesday that she would appeal Quinn’s ruling.

Los Angeles prosecutors say they want to question the Altmans about their friendship with Durst, including his state of mind when he fled to Galveston, Texas, in 2000 amid questions about Kathleen Durst’s disappearance.

The Los Angeles prosecutor in the Durst case declined to comment on the New York ruling. Five of Durst’s lawyers didn’t immediately return an email seeking comment on the decision.

In 2001, Durst was charged with killing a 71-year-old neighbor in Galveston, where Durst was living disguised as a mute woman. While conceding he chopped up neighbor Morris Black’s body and tossed it in the sea, Durst was acquitted of murder after testifying that he was defending himself.

Stewart Altman, who is a labor attorney, indicated in court papers that he may be entitled to claim attorney-client privilege about conversations he has had with Durst. But Quinn said, “Any rulings based upon exerting the privilege must be made on a question by question basis before a California judge.”

Prosecutors also want to question Emily Altman about a 33-page document Durst prepared for his Galveston trial, called “BD story.” At Durst’s request, she turned the document over to the filmmakers who produced the HBO documentary, according to court papers.

Quinn ruled Emily Altman is “a necessary witness” regarding the document.