Spoilers for HBO’s The Jinx below.
In a rare instance of a TV series wholly merging with a real life event, the eccentric millionaire Robert Durst was arrested this past weekend in New Orleans on the eve of the series finale for HBO’s The Jinx, a docu-series focused on his tumultuous life. Many have wondered just how coincidental the timing of the arrest was, especially after the finale ended with a few bone-chilling minutes of Durst talking to himself, unaware that his mic was still recording. While it’s still unclear just how much The Jinx’s footage has helped in getting Durst behind bars again, it doesn’t seem likely that the shocking finale will play a big part in it.
The Jinx ended with filmmaker Andrew Jarecki getting Durst in for a long-delayed second interview to show him a newly unearthed piece of evidence that reportedly helped reopen the 2000 case involving the murder of Durst’s friend Susan Berman. Durst was clearly thrown for a loop when he was presented with the evidence – a letter Durst sent to Berman that was extremely similar to a letter police received alerting them of Berman’s death – and he spent his post-interview time belching in a bathroom and talking to himself, as he is wont to do. He uttered what sounded like a confession by saying “What the hell did I do? Killed them all, of course.” But was that really an admission, and can it even be used against him?
For one thing, it’s to be expected that Durst’s expensive-as-shit legal team will say that Durst was unaware he was being recorded at the time, making anything he said at that point inadmissible in court. (Durst gave this follow-up interview without any legal representation present, and reportedly didn’t even tell his lawyers he was doing the interview.) Of course, Durst should have been fully aware that he was on mic at the time, but he probably had all kinds of other things on his mind. This wasn’t even the first time something like this happened, as Durst was also heard rehearsing his own answers in an earlier episode.
Second, Durst’s version of talking to himself isn’t solely held to just saying things from his own point of view. He also says things like, “Arrest him,” and “Oh, I want this,” along with a few other utterances that seem out of place and would likely cause trouble for anyone trying to prove that he was plainly confessing to multiple murders. Remember, this is a man who escaped penalty for his first wife’s disappearance in 1982, for Berman’s murder, and for the death and dismemberment of Galveston citizen Morris Black in 2001. For the latter, he used a self-defense approach and was found not guilty of murder, with the subsequent dismemberment not entering into it.
Finally, the cops have had that final scene in their possession for months, Jarecki told CBS Morning News, so if it was truly strong enough to build their case on, they would have arrested him after Jarecki first handed it over. The timing of Durst’s arrest was indeed tied to The Jinx’s final episode, but it had more to do with Durst’s movements in present-day than on the years-old interview. The cops were tracking him, as he’d traveled to New Orleans using false information and cash, reportedly so he could avoid the attention that the show was earning him. And it also didn’t seem like a coincidence that Saturday marked the first time a non-stop flight from New Orleans to Cuba had occurred since 1958. The always-traveling Durst has repeatedly proven himself to be a flight risk in the past, and that was apparently enough.
Regardless of its involvement in Durst’s upcoming legal problems, The Jinx finale was still as engrossing as any bit of TV that I’ve seen in my lifetime. Here’s hoping that more true crime series follow suit in the years to come, although it’ll be hard to find someone quite like Robert Durst to sit front and center.