During the season finale of HBO’s 2015 true crime docuseries The Jinx, real estate heir and accused murderer Robert Durst made what appeared to be a stunning confession.
Durst took a break from filming to use the bathroom, seemingly unaware that his mic was still hot. The audio clip that aired in the episode was this:
“There it is. You’re caught. You’re right, of course. But, you can’t imagine. Arrest him. I don’t know what’s in the house. Oh, I want this. What a disaster. He was right. I was wrong. And the burping. I’m having difficulty with the question. What the hell did I do? Killed them all, of course.”
However, the New York Times recently published a more complete transcript of that moment and it’s now casting some doubt as to the veracity of Durst’s alleged confession.
Durst is currently awaiting trial for the murder of Susan Berman. The prosecutors filed the transcript in court–and it does appear that The Jinx director and producer Andrew Jarecki manipulated the transcript to present a pretty damning quote to viewers. According to the filed transcript, what Durst actually said was:
“[Unintelligible] I don’t know what you expected to get. I don’t know what’s in the house. Oh, I want this. Killed them all, of course. [Unintelligible] I want to do something new. There’s nothing new about that. [Inaudible – possibly “disaster.”] He was right. I was wrong. The burping. I’m having difficulty with the question. What the hell did I do?”
Compared to what aired on The Jinx, it does appear that Jarecki (and his fellow producers Marc Sperling and Zachary Stuart-Pontier) cherry-picked from rambling and partially inaudible audio. The issue of journalistic and documentary filmmaking ethics is certainly pertinent. If anything, the transcript raises the question as to why Jarecki felt the need to change the order of the mutterings in the first place. Isn’t “Killed them all, of course?” damning—and dramatic—enough without the “What the hell did I do” preamble? Still, to our (admittedly non-legal-expert) eyes, the transcript doesn’t seem to be the smoking gun against the Jinx team that social media is making it out to be.
Durst’s attorneys are planning on leaning into that edited audio in an effort to invalidate what at the time seemed like such an ironclad confession, and render all evidence from the documentary inadmissible. But the way the some people are calling the quote “misleading” or “significantly edited,” one would assume Jarecki took individual words from Durst and Frankensteined them together to make the “confession” heard ’round the world, which, as we now see from the full transcript, wasn’t the case at all.
Of course, it will be up to lawyers and the judge hearing the case to determine whether Durst’s hot-mic ramblings can be used against him. All we can do is try to keep what he actually said from getting dismissed in a smoke of hot takes.