Why ‘The Jinx’ Owes Its Existence to a Bizarre Movie About Robert Durst

Years ago, while doing my civic duty in a Brooklyn courthouse, I was amused to be asked during jury selection if I watched “The Wire.” The lawyer explained that people’s understanding of what constituted evidence, guilt and crime were often tilted by the kind of media they watched. I did watch “The Wire.” I was dismissed.

That experience came to mind while viewing “The Jinx: Part Two,” the follow-up series to Andrew Jarecki’s hit HBO original that’s largely responsible for the general public’s awareness of the real estate heir and convicted murderer Robert Durst. In the 2015 finale of “The Jinx,” Durst infamously said on a hot mic — seemingly by accident — that he’d murdered his best friend, Susan Berman; his wife, Kathie McCormack Durst, who had disappeared; and his neighbor Morris Black.

The most recent episode of the new show focuses on Berman and a prosecutor’s argument that she helped Durst cover up Kathie’s death by posing as the dead woman on a phone call. The prosecution said Durst killed Berman in 2000 to keep the secret from getting out.

Durst’s defense attorney, David Chesnoff, says on-camera that he was “salivating” because he believed they had “a tremendous reasonable doubt argument.” That is not surprising. What’s interesting is the tack he took.

Chesnoff is shown in court thunderously defending Durst to the jury, saying that the theory that Berman posed as Kathie Durst “was spun from whole cloth.” He adds, “It began in part as the result of a fictional movie that Jarecki made.” Fictional, he emphasizes twice more, and really leans into that angle, bringing it up several more times, including on a slide that reads, “The evidence will show that the prosecution’s case is based on speculation, a flawed investigation, and their work with Hollywood producers.”

If you don’t really know, or remember, what Chesnoff is talking about, the episode doesn’t make it all that clear. What he’s pointing to is “All Good Things,” Jarecki’s 2010 drama about a real estate heir named David Marks (Ryan Gosling), whose wife, Katie (Kirsten Dunst), mysteriously disappears. Marks is obviously modeled on Robert Durst, and Katie on Kathie. Berman’s stand-in, Deborah Lehrman, is played by Lily Rabe. As Chesnoff talks in the “Jinx” episode, red carpet footage from the “All Good Things” premiere briefly appears, as do clips of Lehrman posing as Katie and making a call from a pay phone.

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