Robert (Bob) Bianchi. Esq. appeared on Fox News show Happening Now with host Jon Scott and co-guest, author, and Fox News contributor Lis Wiehl, Esq., to discuss the civil suit brought by real estate mogul Robert Durst’s former wife’s family, seeking monetary damages for not being able to give her a proper burial- – which is a legally recognized cause of action in civil law.
The family alleges that Durst killed his wife and thereby deprived them of having a burial as her body was never recovered.
In New Jersey Criminal law, civil suits often follow an allegation of a crime being perpetrated upon a victim. As we discuss in this news segment, tactically this puts any criminal defendant on shaky legal ground as it relates to their criminal case. In criminal law, a defendant is entitled to exercise their 5th amendment right to remain silent when questioned by law enforcement authorities about a crime.
This becomes tricky for a person under investigation when a civil case is filed. While they still have the right to remain silent, a civil judge may enter a “default judgment” against that person for failing to answer questions in the civil suit. This means that the person exercising their right to remain silent loses the civil case by default.
As a former NJ Prosecutor now practicing criminal defense work, these kinds of scenarios are very nuanced, complex, and dangerous for any person charged or being investigated for a crime. Anything they say may very well lead to evidence that can be used by prosecutors to convict them of a crime.
It will be interesting to see how this civil case affects Durst’s criminal case(s) moving forward.