Can a true crime documentary end up having an effect on the case it covers? Absolutely. Nearly any work of investigative journalism can end up sparking change in its area of coverage; documentary films and series are no exception. The process by which Errol Morris’s 1988 documentary The Thin Blue Line resulted in its subject, Randall Adams, having all charges against him dropped is one of the higher-profile examples, but it’s far from the only one.
With last week’s news that real estate heir Robert Durst was convicted in the murder of Susan Berman, a logical question that follows might include speculation about the role of a recent documentary on Durst in the case against him. Durst’s life — including the mysterious disappearance of his first wife Kathleen McCormack and the deaths of both Berman and Morris Black — didn’t lack for ominous details even before this month’s conviction.
Durst’s story has been chronicled in both fictionalized and documentary form. The 2010 film All Good Things, starring Ryan Gosling and Kirsten Dunst, followed the broad strokes of Durst’s life. Its director Andrew Jarecki then took a documentary approach for The Jinx, a six-hour series made for HBO which featured audio that sounded a whole lot like Durst confessing to multiple murders. Writing at Vulture, Matt Zoller Seitz put the comments into context.