Jury returns guilty verdict in 2010 Oak Park explosion

6:16 PM, Apr 26, 2012   |    comments
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Robert Durst

SACRAMENTO, CA - A Sacramento man accused of intentionally leaving a lit candle and an open gas valve in an Oak Park house that exploded, injuring four firefighters, was found guilty of arson Thursday.

RELATED STORY: Oak Park house explosion suspect to stand trial

The Sacramento Superior Court jury also convicted Robert William Durst, 46, of two counts of burglary, possession of a firearm and two counts of receiving or concealing stolen property.

PHOTOS: Oak Pak house blast

Fire investigators believed the July 5, 2010 explosion was the result of an ongoing dispute between Durst and the home owner over payment for a construction job the defendant performed at the residence. Durst lived next door.

The firefighters were burned checking out a report of a natural gas odor at the home when there was an explosion.

The four firefighters survived their injuries.

Durst did not testify.  He was visibly upset when the verdict was read. His family, seated at the back of an almost empty courtroom, was distraught.  His daughters were yelling and sobbing as they went out into the hallway.

Defense Attorney Richard Cohen claims his client did not get a fair trial because the defense was not allowed to put an expert on false confessions on the stand. 

"There is every reason to believe it was a false confession," Cohen said, "because of the circumstances under which it was given.  Nearly nine hours of interrogation, the continuous presentation of false forensic evidence to the defendant, psychological manipulation (and) statements to the defendant that his legal situation would be greatly improved if he were to confess."

None of the regular jurors wanted to comment as they left the courtroom, but alternate juror William Jackson praised the efforts of the prosecution for their case.

"The defense attorney took on a case that he stood no chance (of winning) to be honest because it just seemed like nothing pointed to anyone else," Jackson said.

Jackson said it was still hard for the jurors to bring a verdict of guilty, however, because they felt bad for Durst's family.

Durst faces some 20 years in prison.  His lawyer plans an appeal.

Jonathan Mumm contributed to this report


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