Notorious real estate heir Robert Durst will be tried for the murder of his longtime friend and booster Susan Berman in September of this year. Durst, 76, has also long been suspected of killing his wife, Kathleen Durst, in 1982, and his Texas neighbor Morris Black in 2001. These cases were investigated by filmmaker Andrew Jarecki and his co-writers Marc Smerling and Zac Stuart-Pontier in the influential HBO true-crime docuseries The Jinx, released in 2015 (A 2010 scripted film starring Ryan Gosling, All Good Things, was also based on Durst’s life.) The conclusion of the series finale of The Jinx is an easy candidate for the most monumental moment in the history of modern, post-Serial true crime entertainment. Captured on a hot mic, a shaken Durst seemed to make a muttered confession while alone in the bathroom during a tough interview session with the filmmakers: “What the hell did I do?…Killed them all, of course.”
The evidence uncovered by the documentary helped lead to Durst’s arrest on first-degree murder in 2015, and he has been in jail in Los Angeles since 2016. Durst’s defense team, however, has presented damning evidence against the admissibility of the seeming confession-on-tape in court, and called into question both the veracity of The Jinx‘s implicit conclusions about Durst and the filmmakers’ journalistic ethics. A transcript from the unedited tape used in the series obtained by the New York Times seems to indicate that Andrew Jarecki and his team pulled Durst’s remarks from a longer sequence of “rambling remarks,” and reordered them out of context. Here is the relevant passage, as excerpted by the Times:
The producers of “The Jinx” edited Bob Durst’s famous “What the hell did I do? Killed them all, of course” comments out of order—and Durst’s lawyers are preparing to cite those edits in an effort to cripple his prosecution. The actual transcript:https://t.co/mCbK7AqZte pic.twitter.com/vsdGAz0MNQ
— Rebecca Ballhaus (@rebeccaballhaus) April 24, 2019
After the final episode’s premiere in March of 2015 (and Durst’s arrest shortly afterwards), Jarecki and The Jinx‘s team said that the reason they had not turned the tape over to authorities earlier was in part due to the fact that they had made the discovery of the hot mic tape two years after interviewing Durst, since it had not been attached to video footage. They claim to have turned the tape over to prosecutors in the Berman murder case in 2014, after they came across the audio.
According to the Times, Durst’s defense team, led by Dick DeGuerin, is claiming that authorities coordinated their 2015 arrest of Durst with HBO as a PR ploy of sorts for the network, and are demanding that all of the evidence in the case that came from the filmmakers to be thrown out of court.
Meanwhile, docuseries co-writer Zac Stuart-Pontier told the paper that the sequencing was not meant to suggest uninterrupted speech. “We put the line ‘killed them all’ at the very end of the last episode to end the series on a dramatic note, not to link it to any other line,” he said. “It didn’t occur to us that other journalists would connect it with ‘What the hell did I do?’ There are actually 10 seconds between the two lines, and I think the experiences of reading it and hearing it are very different.”
Read the full Times report here.