Robert Durst, the notorious millionaire star of the popular HBO docuseries “The Jinx,” was convicted of 1st-degree murder on Friday, capping his decades-long evasion of justice, which involved murder allegations in three states, and one of the more bizarre criminal sagas.
Prosecutors say Durst, the heir to a wealthy New York real estate developer, shot his best friend, Susan Berman, at point-blank range in the back of the head because she had witnessed and/or could implicate Durst in the murder of his former wife. They believe Berman was on the phone about to tell police about Durst’s actions when she was killed. The conviction serves as a statement that the jury believed Durst also killed Kathie Durst in 1982.
The investigation into Durst, which had stalled for many years, was reopened after the release of the docu-series The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst, which uncovered new incriminating evidence and featured a controversial but shocking scene in which Durst appears to confess to his crimes. On the eve of the airing of the final episode in 2015, police arrested Durst, who was hiding in a New Orleans hotel.
After the conviction on Friday, Jinx producer Marc Smerling, said:
“Durst is where he belongs and probably deep inside where he wants to be. He had a tremendous compulsion to confess.”
In the final episode of The Jinx, Durst is finally presented in person with the damning new evidence. During a break, Durst goes to the bathroom, seemingly unaware that he is still has a microphone attached to him. In 2019, The New York Times published the transcript of the full audio recording, which was played for the jurors during his most recent trial:
There it is, you’re caught.
You’re right of course. But you can’t imagine. They want to talk to him. That’s good. I find them very frightening, and I do not want to talk to them. I don’t know. The washer.
Well, I don’t know what you expected to get. But…the rest of [unintelligible] I don’t know what’s in the house. Oh, I want this.
Killed them all, of course.
I want to do something new. There’s nothing new about that.
What a disaster. He was right. I was wrong. And the burping. I’m having difficulty with the questions. What the hell did I do?
But the primary evidence that ultimately led to Durst’s conviction was the “cadaver note,” which established that Durst had been at the scene of the crime. for many years, Durst acknowledged that only Berman’s killer could have written the note. The defense contended Durst found Berman’s body and then fled in panic.
The prosecution also used the “BD story,” a 33-page manuscript documenting 12 years of Durst’s life, which contains incriminating details, and a copy of what’s known as the “dig” note, which is described as a to-do list that Kathie Durst’s sister found in Durst’s trashcan a week after she went missing. The scrawling notes read: reads: “town dump, bridge, dig, boat, other, shovel or ?, check car-truck rentals.”
Perhaps the most damning evidence came in the form of second-hand testimony from Nick Chavin, who was a friend of both Berman and Durst. Chavin claimed that Berman directly told him that “Bob killed Kathie” but that she wanted to remain loyal to him. Durst evidently invited Chavin over to dinner and said to him, “I had to,” which he took as a confession to the shooting. What he said net, allegedly, was repeated by the prosecution during their closing arguments as a summation of the whole case:
“It was her or me. I had no choice.”