Last week on HBO’s documentary, “The Jinx,” real estate mogul Robert Durst seemed to have confessed to killing Kathleen McCormack Durst, Susan Berman and Morris Black, for which he was a prime suspect. The question, however, is can this “confession” be used in court, or will a judge preclude Durst’s statements from being admitted into evidence in a criminal case?
What Durst Said
The confession came during a bathroom break at the close of HBO’s documentary “The Jinx”, in which Durst was interviewed by Andrew Jarecki, a renowned moviemaker (nominated for the Oscar award in 2004 for “Capturing the Friedmans”). Here is what Durst said, as caught by a wireless microphone: “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.”
Is the Confession Acceptable as Evidence in Court?
Robert Durst was arrested in New Orleans by the FBI and charged with murder just a day prior to the episode airing. With this confession the case against him appears to be very strong. However, that is not to say that Durst’s lawyers won’t aggressively seek to preclude both the audio and the written transcript from ever coming into evidence in any case against him.
According to several criminal law experts, it is unlikely that any judge would opt to ignore what Durst said. Silas Wasserstrom, a professor at Georgetown University (law) said that Durst’s admission seems to be spontaneous enough to be accepted in court as evidence. He also said that, if this was government or police microphone, that Durst was not aware of, the situation would be different. On the other hand, Harvard law professor, Noah Feldman, is of the opinion that Durst’s confession takes an ambiguous form of a soliloquy, as there is no one that Durst actually addresses. According to Feldman, the soliloquist asks himself or herself big questions (like Hamlet did with “To be or not to be?”) and looks for different answers. Professor of law Erica Zunkel, from the University of Chicago, also explained that confessions made in police custody are much more likely to be suppressed as being coerced. Since in this situation Durst knew he had a microphone on him, it is “defense attorney nightmare” as far as evidences go.
New Evidence Found in Friend’s House
On March 15, 2015, NYPD found sixty boxes with transcripts of Durst’s murder trial from 2003, bills, phone records and other documents, from the basement of Susan T. Giordano’s home. Furthermore, when arrested on March 14th, Durst was found in possession of a .38 revolver, including four live rounds, almost $43,000 in cash, a fake ID, passport and some marijuana. Durst was subsequently charged of being in possession of a firearm and possession of a weapon with a controlled dangerous substance.
Have Documentaries “Cracked” Murders in This Way Before?
No. Though a radio podcast “Serial” did lead to a post-conviction after the re-examination of the death of a Baltimore teenager and has led to new evidence. Also, Randall Dale Adams, who was convicted for killing a policeman, was acquitted after the documentary “The Thin Blue Line” presented new evidence.
What Crimes is Durst Linked With?
Kathleen Durst disappeared on January 31st, 1982. Until today, her body is yet to be found. She was declared dead back in 2001. Robert Durst was never charged with her disappearance, although some of her friends believe he is involved in some capacity.
On December 24th, 2000, Susan Berman, Durst’s long-time friend was found killed in Benedict Canyon, California in her house. Durst confirmed to the LAPD that he had sent Berman $25,000 and faxed a copy of her 1982 deposition; he refused to be further questioned about her murder. Many believe that Susan Berman had knowledge of Kathie Durst’s disappearance.
Durst was never prosecuted for these two cases. He was, however, cleared for the murder of Morris Black in 2003. Durst claimed self-defense in this case, but he admitted to using two saws, a pairing knife and an axe in order to dismember and dispose of the body. The body was found floating in Galveston Bay.
Contact the Johnson Criminal Law Group today to discuss your case or your favorite case in the news.