Remember when The Jinx, a documentary series by Andrew Jarecki, premiered on HBO in February to relatively indifferent reviews? When Robert Durst was just a bogeyman’s name, whispered at night by New York’s wealthiest? Everything changed come the one-two punch of this weekend with The Jinx‘s finale, which ended with Durst — the suspect in three disappearances and murders over 30 years — muttering in the bathroom, mic still on, that he “killed ’em all, of course.”
This television confession came on the heels of shocking real life action, with Durst’s weekend arrest in New Orleans for the unsolved 2000 murder of his friend Susan Berman. Where did the new evidence implicating Durst come from? The Jinx‘s fifth episode. After The Jinx‘s finale, Jarecki started to do the interview rounds, only to put the kibosh on it once it was made clear that The Jinx may play a role in Durst’s arrest and possible trial.
A man who’s been able to evade the authorities for 30 years is being brought to justice because of the documentary series in which he participated. The result is a perfect storm of entertainment, narrative, and true crime tangling with the law and the tragedy of three lost lives, with a moneyed Manhattan family at the center of it. It is potentially trial-of-the-century catnip. Here are some of the myriad reactions and reporting that’s gone on regarding Durst and The Jinx this week.
Regarding The Jinx‘s finale:
What was the timeline? Much of the show’s finale was taken up with Jarecki and his team trying to negotiate a second interview with Durst, with Durst’s run-in with the law August 2013 serving as the tipping point where the real-estate scion was willing to talk to the filmmakers one more time. But, as Kate Aurthur of BuzzFeed reports, the second Durst interview took place in 2012.
NPR discussed how in the light of The Jinx‘s ending, the public is, naturally, interested enough to play detective on their own — which is part of the reason the “timeline” is a major question.
Is the finale’s “confession” evidence?
Bloomberg calls it inadmissible, citing that it would “prejudice” a jury. It also calls it a Shakespearean soliloquy.
Was The Jinx ethical?
Considering the questions about the timeline in the finale, BuzzFeed went deep on how The Jinx was “narratively manipulating” viewers. It also noted, accurately, that Jarecki’s fictional film about Durst, All Good Things, lingered in the background.
Grantland’s Molly Lambert wrote vividly about the fact that like Durst, Jarecki is also from a wealthy Manhattanite family, a connection that may give his obsession more gravitas. “Jarecki and Durst’s relationship sometimes felt like two lost boys in search of paternal figures, finding weird comfort in their engagement in each others’ lives. Does Jarecki feel guilty about seducing and destroying Durst?”
The New York Times interviewed Joe Berlinger, one of the co-directors of Paradise Lost, the documentary series about the West Memphis Three murders, about the role that a documentarian has in regards to an ongoing criminal investigation. It neatly lays out ethical questions that have come up regarding The Jinx and Durst’s arrest.
A true crime expert in Pacific Standard said that, regarding The Jinx‘s ending and what it means for true crime stories: “The success and the legitimacy of the medium hinges on being able to stay within this framework of advocacy ahead of strictly sensationalism or profitability.”
What did director Andrew Jarecki have to say?
Jarecki and The Jinx team gave three interviews with CBS This Morning, Good Morning America, and The New York Times before they canceled all of their public appearances. The Times interview is worth reading, and a clear sign of how muddy the relationship is between law enforcement and The Jinx, with Jarecki and co-writer and cinematographer Marc Smerling doubling back on every statement. Jarecki said, “The truth is, our opinion now is that he’s guilty. We can’t say that from the standpoint of the law.”
Reporters were told: “Given that we are likely to be called as witnesses in any case law enforcement may decide to bring against Robert Durst, it is not appropriate for us to comment further on these pending matters.”
What the latest news on Robert Durst?
Durst’s apartment in Houston was searched, and within were three true-crime books inside about the 1982 disappearance of his wife, Kathie. His sibling, Douglas, who ended up running the Durst Corporation, went on record with The New York Times about his difficult relationship with his brother. “Douglas said he kept a piece of pipe in his office to protect himself because Robert would leave a sharp-pointed plumber’s wrench on his desk.”
While Durst was going to be extradited to California, this has been delayed due to questions with his case. New Orleans, where he was arrested, is pursuing charges against Durst regarding carrying a weapon and drugs. Durst is being investigated in connection with a cold case regarding two missing teens in California.