Robert Durst, a wealthy real estate heir and the subject of the HBO series “The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst,” has been arrested in New Orleans.
Durst was taken into custody late Saturday by the Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Office after authorities in Los Angeles issued an extradition warrant for the 71-year-old, according to his attorney, Houston-based Chip Lewis. The arrest occurred in the lobby of the J.W. Marriott Hotel in New Orleans, on Canal Street across from the French Quarter, Lewis said.
Lewis confirmed that his client, who is being held without bond, has been charged with murder.
Lewis told The Washington Post that he has advised Durst not to fight extradition to California. He was scheduled for a hearing before a magistrate in New Orleans at 2 p.m. Central time today.
“He’s maintained his innocence for 10 years now. Nothing has changed,” Lewis told The Post in a telephone interview, noting that Durst’s arrest had caused him to cut short a spring break trip to Aspen, Colo., after just one day.
Lewis said that Durst had known for more than a week that an arrest was likely — and that he had even offered to have Durst surrender in California to face charges. He accused prosecutors and the filmmaker Andrew Jarecki of working together on the timing of the arrest, to make it a kind of publicity stunt for the last episode of “The Jinx.”
Los Angeles prosecutors did not immediately return calls for comment Sunday.
“I know, Jarecki has made a deal with them that they were going to let him announce this either before or after the last episode tonight,” Lewis said.
The lawyer said that by announcing the arrest early in the day, he had undercut that effort: “We spoiled their fun a bit. Because now the whole world knows he’s been arrested.”
Durst has floated in and out of the public spotlight as a person of interest or suspect in three deaths in Texas, Los Angeles and New York since 1982.
His latest arrest comes after the Los Angeles Police Department renewed its investigation into the 15-year-old murder of Durst’s former friend Susan Berman, the daughter of a Las Vegas casino owner, according to CBS News.
Lewis was Durst’s attorney during a trial in Galveston, Tex., in which Durst admitted he had dismembered his former roommate — but was acquitted of the man’s killing after saying the death was unintended and resulted from a struggle between both men.
“I could not be more thrilled about the arrest,” former judge Susan Criss, who presided over the Galveston trial told The Post. “Presiding over that trial was like watching a slow train wreck. The prosecution dropped the ball every step of the way and the defense came prepared.”
Criss, who now heads her own law firm, remembers the three-month-long trail as the most frustrating and unsettling case she has ever been involved with; mostly, she said, because of the eccentric figure at its heart.
Though she recalls him making grunting noises “like a pig” and talking to invisible people at the beginning of the trial in an attempt to seem insane, Durst was eerily calm, Criss said, and coherent behind closed doors. There were times, she noted, when he even seemed charming. She thinks she was dealing with an exceptionally cunning serial killer, a man made all the more dangerous by his financial resources.
“I saw the pictures of the cut up body,” she said. “That body was cut up like it had been done by a surgeon. He knew what sort of tool to use for this bone and that muscle. It would have been impossible for someone to do that if it was their first murder attempt. That is a cold, calculating act.”
By the time the prosecution realized they needed to fully prepare for their cross-examinations, she said, the defense had already pounced and was too late.
“I’ve been around some very dangerous people as a prosecutor, a judge and someone who has handled any number of capitol murder cases,” she added. “This man is beyond anyone that I’ve ever seen.”
Fifteen years later, Durst’s downfall may end up being a show that he was a willing participate in.
He spent more than 20 hours in interviews with Jarecki, who has been researching Durst for eight years. Jarecki’s 2010 film “All Good Things” was a fictionalized version of the Durst story, in which Ryan Gosling played a somewhat empathetic version of a killer.
In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, Jarecki said that Durst came to him after seeing the film, admitting it made him cry three times. The two have been working together ever since, with Durst agreeing to let Jarecki ask any question.
Discussing his client’s next legal hurdle, Lewis struck a confident tone.
“We’ll saddle up and head west,” Lewis said Sunday. “And handle this one just like we did this last one.”