Some witnesses in the pending trial for real estate heir and alleged murderer Robert Durst are “concerned about their safety,” a Los Angeles prosecutor said Wednesday during a hearing.
Los Angeles County Deputy District attorney John Lewin told a judge he was worried about the safety of the witnesses because of three deaths allegedly linked to Durst.
“Two of the three were murdered because they are witnesses,” alleged Lewin.
Citing Durst’s purported financial resources, Lewin added, “Witnesses are concerned about their safety.”
Defense attorney David Chesnoff scoffed at Lewin’s statement, pointing to Durst’s frail health.
“Suggesting somehow that a man in a wheelchair is somehow a threat … is just hyperbole,” Chesnoff said.
Durst is charged in the December 2000 death of friend Susan Berman. Prosecutors believe Durst killed her because she knew too much about the 1982 disappearance of Durst’s first wife, Kathleen, whose body has never been found.
In 2001, Durst admitted he killed his Texas neighbor, Morris Black, but he claimed self-defense. He was later acquitted for the decapitation killing.
Lewin told the judge that he wanted to interview two witnesses – an elderly man and a secret witness – in February before the preliminary hearing.
• Want to keep up with the latest crime coverage? Click here to get breaking crime news, ongoing trial coverage and details of intriguing unsolved cases in the True Crime Newsletter.
Also, during the hearing, the judge allowed a special master to determine whether any papers seized by authorities after Durst’s arrest were subject to attorney-client privilege.
Some of the papers seized were examined by filmmaker Andrew Jarecki for the HBO documentary, The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst.
During a police interview with Durst, Lewin said he was surprised that Durst allowed the filmmakers full access to his files, which included documents between him and his attorneys.
• Pick up PEOPLE’s special edition True Crime Stories: Cases That Shocked America, on sale now, for the latest on Casey Anthony, JonBenét Ramsey and more.
“I was trying to be-and I just figured-and-and the way they made All Good Things, it made me a sympathetic person, as opposed to a super-aggressive person – which is pretty much correct,” Durst said during the police interview.
He added, “That they would see me as an acceptable human being, as opposed to all of this other stuff. And that I couldn’t get them to see me as an acceptable human being if I was covering things up.”