In 2015, Manhattan real estate magnate Robert Durst was caught on tape professing, “I killed them all.” But in 2003, a jury found him not guilty for killing his neighbor Morris Black in self-defense. The verdict was shocking; as Durst admitted to the murder and and throwing the victim's dismembered body parts in Galveston Bay, TX. In The Jury Speaks (airing at 9:00 p.m. on Tuesday, July 25), jurors Deborah Warren, Robbie Nelson, Joanne Gongora, Alice Walker, Elridge Darby and Glenda Brents speak out about their controversial ruling.
"I had never been [on a jury] and really didn't think I would get chosen. And I didn't know what to expect," shares Robbie Nelson. Then 33 years old, Nelson was surprised by the wide-ranging screening questions she was asked before joining the jury, from her educational background to her idealogical stance. "I don't remember if they asked us, if we were for or against the death penalty. Something tells me they asked us."
Nelson was aware of the case from what she had read in the newspapers but she remembers walking into the actual courtroom unbiased. "They want you to be totally unbiased. They don't want you to read anything. Of course, everybody's heard about the case because it's been plastered all over the news and media."
Jury duty was sometimes as long as nine hours. "There were days that it was so boring that it was a strain just to pay attention." Nelson recalls going to work and ensuring not to talk to coworkers about the buzzy case. "We just couldn't talk about the case to anybody." She says the media had photos from the courtroom so it wasn't really a secret to her friends and family that she was on the high-profile jury.
Of everything she was presented with, the juror remembers the "gruesome" crime scene photos as being especially difficult to digest. The jury deliberated for a couple of days before announcing its verdict. Nelson says she was totally unsure about her decision until the full deliberation. "I was one of those undecided."
For those wondering how the jury could find Durst not guilty--given his own confession--Nelson notes that the jury's job was to decide solely about whether he had intentionally murdered his neighbor. The issue of dismemberment was not to be deliberated. "We found him not guilty; he's not innocent."
In the years following the case, Durst has remained something of a fixture in the media and in the courtroom. Nelson says that she's casually followed him (She still hasn't seen The Jinx) but it's not something she fixates on. "You can't let what [he's] doing now make you second-guess your decision from then," she says, looking back on her verdict. "Robert Durst has done a lot of not-so-good things in the last several years. The day we had, we made the decision we felt was the right decision."