Douglas Durst’s “Jinx” litigation rests on a single question

Is the Robert Durst-starring series a documentary or docudrama?

Mar.March 17, 2015 06:00 PM

“The Jinx” co-creator Andrew Jarecki’s cooperation with the Los Angeles Police Department, which led to the arrest of the series’ star Robert Durst, could be used to strengthen Jarecki’s case against pending litigation from Douglas Durst.

In January, Douglas, chairman of the Durst Organization and younger brother to Robert, filed a petition in New York Supreme Court requesting that Jarecki disclose information on where he obtained confidential videotaped depositions involving Robert from a previous case.

Segments of those confidential tapes were used in the series, including a scene where Robert is “dressed in the orange jumpsuit of an incarcerated criminal defendant following his admitted killing and dismemberment of his neighbor in Galveston, Texas,” according to Douglas’ petition.

After denying Douglas’ initial requests to preview the series before it broadcast on HBO, Jarecki was served with a petition from Douglas, ordering him to disclose who provided the tapes. Douglas hoped to use the information to name defendants in a potential lawsuit.

“Douglas Durst is worried the The Jinx will be a violent broadside against the family name and history,” the petition states.

Douglas’ defense team argued that Robert commissioned Jarecki and his film company, Hit The Ground Running, to produce the series, which they said provides a one-sided perspective from the more than twenty hours of interviews with Robert. Douglas also noted in his petition that the series was never commissioned under HBO Documentary Films.

Whether Jarecki will be compelled to disclose his sources hinges on whether he can prove the film is a documentary and whether he acted as a journalist. Douglas, however, argues the film is a “sensationalized docudrama” and claims Jarecki is not protected by New York’s shield law and did not act as a journalist in producing the series.

“Your docudrama relies on Robert’s self-serving, revisionist, and fictitious accounts of the past.” Douglas wrote in a letter to Jarecki dated Jan. 30 and used as evidence in the pending case. “You have spoken publicly about the tensions you have with your father…I am sorry that your relationship is dysfunctional, but do not use your movie to project your problems with your father onto mine.”

Robert’s arrest on Saturday, however, revealed that Jarecki and his team had in fact provided police with new evidence that could potentially link Robert to the murder of his friend Susan Berman in Los Angeles. Jarecki may look to use Robert’s own admission during the show’s final episode as further evidence that the filmmaker had not sided with him.

“I have sought to portray Robert Durst as a human being in a fashion that could help explain some of his behavior, rather than as a burlesque figure,” Jarecki wrote in an affidavit. In his response to the petition, Jarecki asserted that his use of a casting director and dramatic reenactments in the series were not evidence of fictionalizing the story. He also claimed that he acted as a journalist and never made promises to Robert that the film would defend his innocence.

When reached for comment, Jordan Barowitz, a spokesperson for the Durst Organization, said a “Decision Is Pending From The State Supreme Court.”

On Monday, after hitting the morning television circuit, Jarecki and his team canceled all remaining media appearances. “Given that we are likely to be called as witnesses in any case law enforcement may decide to bring against Robert Durst, it is not appropriate for us to comment further on these pending matters,” Jarecki said in a statement issued Monday.

Real estate executives and branding consultant told the Wall Street Journal Monday that the series and the renewed controversy surrounding Robert would have no impact on the Durst Organization’s business.

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