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On Sunday, HBO aired the final episode of The Jinx, a 6-part documentary about multi-millionaire Robert Durst. Durst was suspected but as yet has never been convicted in the disappearance of his wife Kathie Durst in 1982, the murder of Susan Berman in 2000, and the murder and dismemberment of Morris Black in 2001. The documentary came about after filmmakers created a dramatized account of Kathie’s disappearance and the real-life Bobby Durst contacted them to tell his side of the story.
I won’t go into the details because it’s a terrific series and I highly suggest you watch it in full, though if you’re on the Internet at all this week you’ve probably had the shocking ending spoiled for you already.
But that’s not what I want to talk about.
I’d like to briefly mention a different part of the series that absolutely took my breath away. In 2003, Durst was tried for murdering his elderly neighbor Morris Black in Galveston, TX. Durst claimed that he acted in self-defense, and that he struggled with Black over a gun, which went off, killing the old man. Durst then said he panicked and proceeded to chop up the victim into parts that he put in trash bags and dumped into the harbor.
The documentary interviews some jury members, who seem shockingly convinced of Durst’s innocence. It also shows interviews with Dursts’ attorneys, who describe their strategy of how to get the jury to forgive the fact that Durst was in Texas dressing as a woman and using a false name because he was fleeing a renewed investigation into the suspicious disappearance of his wife.
The defense did that by making the New York attorney pursuing that investigation, Jeanine Pirro, into a bogeyman. And what better bogeyman for a backwater Texas town than a successful woman?
Durst’s lawyer, Dick DeGuerin, told the Texas jury that Pirro was ”grandstanding” at the expense of Mr. Durst, and that he was driven from New York by a “politically motivated woman.”
As if that wasn’t bad enough, he goes on to say that Durst’s murder and dismemberment of Morris Black never would have happened had it not been for Pirro. It’s literally all Pirro’s fault, for continuing to investigate the disappearance of Kathie Durst, despite the fact that Pirro had not even named Bob Durst as a suspect in the investigation.
Durst’s other lawyer talks candidly about the fact that they created that picture of Pirro out of wholecloth – it was a fantasy of a big city aggressive bitch, specifically designed to distract the jury with a woman to hate. Remarkably, it worked. Chip states that the jury ate it up, and sure enough, interviews with jury members confirm that at least a few of them still believe that Pirro was on a witch hunt, and they still believe that Durst was just a hapless victim.
Obviously there are more stunning revelations in the documentary, but I found it interesting how this thread of misogyny enabled Durst to kill and – slight spoiler alert – get away with it.
So definitely check out The Jinx, and if you like it, I recommend another HBO true-crime documentary, Paradise Lost. There are a lot of weird similarities, including the frustration of seeing the court system repeatedly screw up and the documentary producers becoming unwittingly involved in the case.