Since the 1980s, Americans have been captivated by Robert Durst’s mysterious ability to get away with anything. His wife disappeared in 1982, and then people around him kept winding up dead. But for some reason, Durst remained (mostly) unscathed, although he was always believed to be guilty by the wider public.
But 2021 was a big year for everyone — including Robert Durst. He’s finally been legally convicted and sentenced to life in prison for the murder of his friend, Susan Berman. After a documentary about Durst titled The Jinx was released on HBO, law enforcement worked with the filmmakers to obtain more damning evidence to convict Durst. But did Durst ever confess?
Robert Durst has never “officially” confessed.
Throughout the past 40 years, Durst has publicly maintained his innocence. Now that his trials are front and center, he’s seen as an egotistical, narcissistic killer. Because of this, he has a reputation as someone who is particularly chatty … which tends to incriminate him even more.
In the original trial for Berman’s death, Durst claimed, “I did a double-take when I saw Susan. I shouted ‘Susan!’ a couple of times, then I quickly ran to the bedroom where she was. Her eyes were closed. … I put my hand over her face to see if she was breathing. It felt cold. Then I grabbed her by her arms ... her head just hung down. I could see that her hair was in some kind of liquid.”
He went on to say that he was going to call 911 but got “cold feet.” (Why would an innocent person get cold feet?) He then sent the famous “cadaver letter” to the authorities instead, which was a main point in the original trial for Berman’s death.
Durst also claimed, “Someone must have had a reason, a motive, whatever, to kill Susan Berman. I had no reason to kill Susan Berman.” However, authorities could point to a very clear motive: to cover up Berman’s knowledge of what happened to Durst’s first wife, Kathie Durst.
Durst basically confessed in ‘The Jinx,' but unknowingly.
Director Andrew Jarecki did what authorities couldn’t — he got a semi-confession and hours of recorded interviews out of Durst. After making his 2010 film, All Good Things, in which he tried to tell Durst’s story with Ryan Gosling as Durst, Durst agreed to cooperate on The Jinx. “I will be able to tell it my way,” Durst explained in the 2015 docuseries.
But by the end of the series, there was some very incriminating evidence against Durst: an unknowing confession. When he went to the bathroom at the end of the interviews, he was still wearing a hot mic. Two years into going through the hours and hours of footage, the filmmakers came across the gem in which Durst was talking to himself. They cut it up at the end to make it more dramatic.
However, the full transcript was played in court as a major piece of evidence.
“There it is, you’re caught,” he said to himself. “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?” And then the toilet flushes.
And according to Daniel C. Richman, a former federal prosecutor, the tape is admissible as evidence "so long as it can be shown that the tape wasn’t tampered with.”
So thanks to The Jinx and Durst’s affinity for speaking his thoughts aloud, the famous real estate mogul turned killer is finally behind bars for life.