Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Robert Durst Pretrial Hearing 2 & Mr. Sprocket Update

spelling of Det. Bengtson's name, further additions

UPDATE 12:00 AM added more notes from today's hearing
minor spelling corrections and (?) notations about name spellings
February 14, 2017
8:40 AM
Testimony from two prosecution witnesses is expected today in order to memorialize their statements for trial. For one witness, this is due to age. For a second witness the prosecution has shared with the court their concerns about the witnesses' safety. The identity of this witness has been kept from the public. I believe at the last hearing the court ordered the people to share the name with the defense team at the end of January.

At the last pretrial hearing, I live-blogged from the courtroom. The consequences of that meant that when I later went into edit, I did not have a back-up copy of my notes and I lost a good portion of my data. So for today's hearing my notes will be posted later. If there are breaks, I may post to Twitter during the hearing.

The courtroom is a nice modern courtroom but the number of seats in the gallery are very few. For the last hearing, most of the seats were taken up by the mainstream media.

Mr. Sprocket Update

It is unknown how long this hearing will take. It could take all day, which will definitely put a damper on Mr. Sprocket's plans for or day. For those of you wondering how Mr. Sprocket is doing, he's slowly recovering.

Last December, the day he was cleared to drive again we learned that he had a broken/ separated rib in his upper right chest, a common byproduct of open heart surgery. It explained why he still had so much pain in one localized spot. It also delayed his recovery and ability to exercise these past two months.

However, he's doing much better now. He's started exercising and working to build his strength back. Sadly, we learned yesterday that his job will not be waiting for him when he is able to return to work.

Last week, I mailed out 'Thank You' gifts to everyone who made a donation to T&T to help us out financially. We can't thank or friends and readers enough, or tell you how much your donation has helped us through this difficult time.

A note to new readers. T&T is 100% reader funded. T&T does not receive any financial backing other than what our readers donate. If you appreciate the public service that T&T provides, consider making a donation to cover T&T's court costs. Thank you.

8:54 AM
Robert Durst Defense Team

Dick DeGuerin arrives with Donald Re and the rest of his team. Donald Re defended German Nationalist Gerhard Becker on involuntary manslaughter in the death of firefighter Glenn Allan. Attorney David Chesnoff arrived in the cafeteria a little after I did.

9:29 AM
On the 8th floor. Several familiar faces among the media. Terri Keith from City News, Marisa Gerber with LA Times, Robert Dean & Andrew Blankstein from Dateline, People Magazine's Christine Pelesik, 48 Hours' Greg Fisher, Brian Melly from the Associated Press. There are other faces that I recognize but I cannot for the life of me place a name with the face. We have two sketch artists today. Bill Blais and Mona Edwards Shaffer.

The defense team also arrived on the 8th floor.

9:40 AM
Mary Hearn of the PIO is here. Her assistant just took role call for the press. But we are learning now that some at the bottom of the list might not get a seat.

10:00 AM
I have a seat! Some seats have been reserved for defense team support staff. They are directly in front of me. I am on the far left of the courtroom and an older, colorful gentleman has the end chair on my left. Greg Fisher is to my right.  Earlier, Bill Blais won the coin toss for sketch artist. Durst is not in the courtroom yet. The Judge is not on the bench yet. I hate this directed, you must sit here seating.

DDA Lewin chatting with Donald Re. I overhear Lewin say something about getting a waiver. It was real quick. There are about eight support staff, possibly more for the defense team. At least five or more for the prosecution. I cannot see over heads.

10:07 AM
More last minute people are being given the final empty seats. I will be switching to draft mode in a few minutes.

10:09 AM
Durst comes out. slowly walking, a back and forth gait.  Fine, Box stripe shirt glasses hanging on for his shirt gray pants. He slowly takes his seat. He turns around to look at the gallery.

[Judge Mark Windham takes the bench. The gallery is called to stand. The bailiff continues his announcement. The court asks the gallery to be seated.]

DeGuerin introduces people to the court. His wife, and I think his son. Stacey (sp?) Manilla.
David Chesnoff. Chip Lewis, Donald Re, (Kathie?) Bane (sp?).

People introduce themselves. Habib Balian, Evan Miller. For the people John Lewin, More people from the prosecution introduced. Lewin also tells the court that there are staff from the crime lab here and other investigative officers are here. George Shamlyan, Elizabeth Camacho, Richard Bengtson, (also miss a name). Another DDA states his name for the record.

Judge allows sketch artist only if image is not definitive.

12:45 PM
I raced down to the cafeteria to get some lunch. I then headed back upstairs to the 8th floor to sit on the floor and use the power outlet. In the entire cafeteria, there were only two power outlets and they were being used by people sitting at the tables next to them.

Before the first witness took the stand,  DeGuerin had an objection to a reporter, Charles Bagli with the New York Times being in the courtroom during testimony. DeGuerin tells the court, "We only found out the name of the witness two weeks ago. There is some. indication I can't say that is [a] credible witness, that's some indicate that Mr. Bagli and this witness are collaborating on a book about the case. ... I have not asked Mr. Bagli about that but there is that fact."

The court rules that Bagli can stay in the courtroom during the first witness testimony. He will wait to make a ruling on the secret witness. DDA Lewin argues to the court the unprecedented step of barring a member of the media from the courtroom. He adds,

"... in many cases you have reporters who have long standing interest in cases and I'm [not] aware, ... no authority as an offer of proof ... they're saying they have suspcion of conflicts .. I’m [confident] you have the authority out there, if you take that step  you [will] have a due process issue. ... I would just ask to a hearing prior to that so we can litigate it."

Judge Windham responds to counsel. "Thank you. That’s why I didn't rule on that.  Ofcourse  I’ll entertain any motion from any side and that motion ..."

The first witness is called, Dr. Albert Kuperman. DDA Balian presents the witness.


Dr. Kuperman lives in New York City and is 85 years old.

Several basic themes are presented to the witness about memory and to let the DA know if he doesn't remember, or if his memory might be from something he read or a personal memory.

Dr. Kuperman gives an abbreviated CV. Before he retired, for 40 years he was the Associate Dean of Education at Albert Einstein College of Medicine. [Interview with Dr. Kuperman before he retired.] Dr. Kuperman has obtained his degree at Cornell Medical School of Sciences. He also has a Ph.D. in
pharmacology. He was responsible fore the management and development of the educational program for medical students. Under him were the heads, directors and various assistant deans.

DDA: The Albert Einstein medical school, how difficult is it for someone to become a med student there?
AK: In the 1980's we would get eight to ten thousand applications for a class of 176. They would screen out all but 1100 and interview 500 or 600 of those 1100 and then choose a class of 176.
DDA: You would take the brightest of the brightest?
AK: Yes.
DDA: If someone could not undergo the curriculum, they would not be there?
AK: Yes.

DDA Balian comments that he went to law school and it was a lot easier.

Dr. Kuperman states that the program is four years. The first year, 95% of the students time would be spent in various biomedical courses, lab and small group sessions as well. The other 5% clinical type teaching.  The first two years is the classroom like work that occurs in a large lecture hall. In the 3rd year, the clerkship rotations in every specialty, psychiatry, surgery, medicine, etc. And the fourth year, there are also a few clerk-ships, neurology being one, some internship in medicine and pediatrics and an ambulatory program. Dr. Kuperman also mentions there are various electives in clinic specialties or research or community based work programs. In the third and fourth year, there are rarely courses that take place in a classroom setting. The clerk-ships take place off campus, so the students get to work in the hospital with patients leaning their craft. They are a minimum of four weeks, maximum eight weeks.

The supervisory structure of these programs are explained. The student either passes or fails. There's no middle ground. The students are given responsibilities where they are located at month in a clerk- ship. The school places the student in a hospital and the doctors will train that student. The supervision is left to those doctors.

During the 1982, there were approximately 700 to 899 students at Albert Einstein Medical School. In his 40 year career, he was responsible for the education of almost 7,000 students.

DDA: Do you remember them all?
AK: No.
DDA: Do you remember some of them?
AK: yes.

Dr. Kuperman explains that most of his interaction was with students who were taking his pharmacology course. Occasionally, students would come to him to discuss special programs the school offered beyond the clerk ships, beyond the required courses. Occasionally he would interact with other students but mostly, issues with students were handled by the Dean of Students. The interaction between student and teacher was formal. In his role, he didn't have much time interacting with students.

The Dean of Students in 1982 was John Cook. His first name was really Jean but he liked to be called John. When Dr. Kuperman arrived Dr. Cook was already dean of students and he remained there until 1988. Dr. Cook's duties are explained. After medical school, a student has an MD degree but not licensed to practice. They must go through three years residency before they can practice. He explains the school matching program.  Dr. Cook was in charge of matching students to the hospital they would do their residency in.

I note that DeGuerin's blond wife, sitting in the row in front of me beside DeGuerin's son has a casual polished look about her.

DDA Balian shifts to asking Dr. Kuperman about a "particular student" that happened in the late 70's to early 80's. Dr. Kupperman is familiar with this particular case and had read media accounts over the years.

DDA: Have you watched the documentary The Jinx?
AK: No.

DeGuerin objects to the word "documentary" to describe Andrew Jarecki's film. The witness testifies he has not watched any film or video related to the Durst situation. He has not seen the movie, All Good Things but has read articles over the years. He acknowledges that it might be difficult to delineate what he has read from what he remembers. He remembers Kathleen Durst. He would see her around campus. He could not give an exact number of times he saw her on campus, but states, "I would say about a dozen times." He remembers what Kathy Durst looked like.

DDA: Was there ever any other med student at your school that ever disappeared that just suddenly disappeared?
AK: No.

Dr. Kuperman remembers he had a couple informal setting discussions with her. He remembers her as a very bright, attractive young woman who "... looked very good in terms of her dress. Things were different then. Students were very rebellious in dress. She was very smart looking is how I would describe it. And that's how I would describe it for the two informal meetings I had with her."

The interactions Dr. Kuperman had with Kathy were very quick, no more than five to ten minutes each.

DDA: What is the best amount of time you would estimate over the three or four years of [meeting her]?
AK: Fifteen minutes.
DDA: And have you previously said it was 10 minutes.
AK: I might have stated that, yeah.
DDA: Your best estimation, as you sit here today, what was the time as to the length of it?
AK: Probably 10 to fifteen minutes.
DDA: And how certain of you are that?
AK: Reasonably certain.
DDA: Did you think that perhaps that you had hours of interaction with Kathy?
AK: Definitley not.
DDA: How certain are you that your interactions with her were brief?
AK: I'm certain it was very brief.
DDA: Who knew Kathy Durst better, you or Jean Cook? ... Who had more contact with Kathy Durst?
Defense: Objection!
Court: Sustained.

And the changing questions about who had more contact with Kathy keep coming the defense keeps objecting and the court continues to sustain them.

DDA Balian asks to be heard on the issue. The court tells him he must lay a foundation. DDA Balian confers with DDA Lewin. The people switch to another line of questioning.

Dr. Kuperman testifies that regarding to Kathy's background, he knew that she was a nurse. He had no knowledge of her personal life or was aware of any family problems.

DDA: If someone were to say, if Dr. Cook were to say, if anyone talked to Kathy on a daily basis, it would be Dr. Kuperman?
AK: That would be incorrect.
DDA: If Dr. Cook were to say [Kathy Durst's] immediate contact was Dr. Kuperman...
AK: That would be incorrect.
DDA: If someone were to say that Kathy spoke directly with [you] were her [advisor] ...
AK: That would be incorrect.
Defense: Objection!
Court: Sustained.
DDA: If Dr. Cook were to say, very infrequently, a student were to work with you rather than Dr. Cook?
AK: That would be incorrect.
DDA: If Dr. Cook were to say, that Kathy dealt with you directly what would you say?
AK: [That's] incorrect.

More hypothetical questions along the same line of 'if Dr. Cook would say.' Dr. Kuperman testifies that he is "very certain" that he did not have more contact with Kathy than Dr. Cook. There are more objections by the defense.

More to come.....