Prosecutors ask to use film and DVD commentary as evidence in Robert Durst murder case
Prosecutors on Tuesday asked the judge handling Robert Durst’s murder case to consider as evidence a fictional movie loosely based on the New York real estate scion’s life, as well as the DVD commentary he made while watching the film.
Durst’s comments and, at times, his silence while viewing “All Good Things” constitute a tacit admission of guilt, prosecutors wrote in a motion filed Tuesday. The 2010 film starring Ryan Gosling as the character based on Durst ties him to the slayings of his wife, his best friend, his neighbor and his dog.
“After reading the script and watching this movie,” prosecutors wrote, “defendant did not sue the production company for slander, nor did he object to how the movie portrayed him.”
The prosecution’s request came during a preliminary hearing for Durst, who is charged with shooting his friend Susan Berman in the back of the head inside her Benedict Canyon home in 2000. Prosecutors allege that he killed her because of what she knew about his first wife’s disappearance in New York years earlier. Los Angeles prosecutors have argued that Durst killed his wife, Kathleen, in 1982, but her body has never been found.
The 75-year-old Durst has publicly denied involvement in Kathleen’s disappearance and has pleaded not guilty in the Los Angeles case, saying he didn’t kill Berman and doesn’t know who did. His attorneys have said they believe the Los Angeles murder prosecution was prompted by publicity surrounding the HBO miniseries “The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst,” not evidence. He was arrested in connection with Berman’s slaying on March 14, 2015, the day before the series finale aired.
In the motion filed this week, prosecutors said that after Durst watched “All Good Things,” he contacted the director, offering praise and agreeing to sit for an interview, which was used as commentary for the film’s DVD release. Durst’s only criticism of the film, prosecutors said, was the depiction of him killing his dog, Igor.
“His failure to dispute any of the other damning allegations from the rest of the movie manifests his belief in the movie’s truth,” prosecutors argued. “It strains all credibility to suggest that a person being depicted as a serial killer would not have stood up and proclaimed the falsity of such allegations.”
In court Monday, Durst’s lead attorney, Dick DeGuerin, scoffed at the prosecution’s attempt to use the film as evidence.
“Where do I start?” DeGuerin said. “This is a work of fiction. It’s a work of drama, it has actors and all of the accouterments of a Hollywood production.”
Judge Mark E. Windham has yet to make an official ruling on whether he will consider the film and commentary as evidence. In court Monday, the judge told prosecutors he had specifically avoided watching the film, saying he found it “problematic” to rely on “a fictionalized account of something you’re alleging actually took place.”
By the time he contacted law enforcement, Jarecki “was more convinced than ever” that Durst was responsible for Berman’s death and his wife’s disappearance, according to a detective’s report based on an interview with the director in 2015. Jarecki initially contacted an FBI agent, who suggested he call L.A. County Deputy Dist. Atty. John Lewin, a veteran cold-case prosecutor.
The production team turned over a key piece of evidence to prosecutors — a letter from Durst to Berman in 1999 showing handwriting that looks similar to that in an anonymous note sent to police at the time of Berman’s death, telling them they’d find a “cadaver” at her home. In both documents, Beverly Hills is misspelled as “Beverley Hills.”
In his interview with the detective, Jarecki said he didn’t learn about Durst’s arrest until a day after it happened, saying there was no effort to alert him “to increase television ratings.”
Prosecutors played clips from recorded interviews between Jarecki and Durst, including a portion that was included in the “All Good Things” commentary. As the defendant watched a scene in which Gosling yanks Kirsten Dunst — who plays the character based on Kathleen — by her hair, urging her to leave a social gathering, Durst said, “This is close.” The multimillionaire tells Jarecki that in the past he had heard two different versions of what happened that day.
“One way I drag her out of the house by her hair; the other way, I grab her hair and a big chunk comes out,” Durst said. “Either one is close enough.”
During a later interview, which was also played in court Tuesday, Jarecki asked Durst if he’d had trepidation when first watching the film.
“Oh, enormous trepidation,” Durst said. “But … I felt the movie was very, very, very close in much of the ways about what, pretty much, happened…. There were parts where I said, ‘Well, that’s just not right.’ ”
At the end of the preliminary hearing, which is scheduled to stretch into Thursday, the judge will decide whether there is enough evidence for Durst to stand trial for Berman’s murder.
6:35 p.m.: This article was updated with additional details from the court hearing.
This article was originally published at 4:15 p.m.
The view from Sacramento
For reporting and exclusive analysis from bureau chief John Myers, get our California Politics newsletter.
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.