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TV Review: Making a Murderer

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Guilty Beyond All Reasonable Doubt?

Photo Courtesy of Google Images
Photo Courtesy of Google Images

Netflix’s original true-crime documentary series, “Making a Murderer” has been getting some serious press time since its release on December 18. It has been the hit subject on social media and all around the internet while petitions to release the accused Steven Avery circulate the web.

This controversial series follows the 2007 conviction of Wisconsin male Steven Avery in the gruesome murder of one Teresa Halbach. The series documents many points during the case in which the justice system, specifically the Wisconsin judicial system, failed to give Avery and his nephew Brendan Dassey a fair trial. Here is a rundown, in case you missed it.

Before the documented murder trial, Avery had wrongfully spent 18 years in prison after being convicted of sexual assault. After those 18 years, DNA evidence was able to be tested and proved that Avery did not commit this crime, thus he was released in 2003. Two years later, Avery was charged with the murder of Teresea Halbach, a young photographer. This happened not too far away from when Avery’s $36 million civil lawsuit for wrongful conviction against Manitowoc County was to come to trial. Long story short, the court continued finding “evidence” of Avery committing the murder and even then coerced a, potentially false, confession of involvement from Avery’s 16 year old nephew, Brenden Dassey. Dassey is shown to be a learning disabled child with a fourth grade reading level, yet he was convicted in 2007 of homicide, mutilation of a corpse, and sexual assault. Avery was convicted of first-degree intentional homicide and felony possession of a firearm.

First question: Why would anyone commit a murder if they are about to essentially be given $36 million? If we solely focus on the documentary, Steven Avery had zero motive to commit this crime. Even if he is a murderer, don’t you suppose he would have waited until he became a millionaire? The lawsuit was going to ruin Manitowoc County and the officers and prosecutors who were involved; which is highly suspicious considering the murder of Teresea Halbach occurred just before they were going to have to pay Avery. My point is not to accuse the county of anything, but to point out some problems with the case against Avery. So number one- lack of motive.

Two: in the documentary, it is discussed how Avery’s and Halbach’s blood were found in her car on Avery’s property. But they also discuss how Halbach was supposedly murdered in Avery’s garage, which if you look at it, is entirely filled with junk and not clean. Surprise, there was no blood found in the garage. This suggests that somehow Avery murdered Halbach in the garage, threw her in the car, drove her 5 feet around the house to the burn pit, burned the body, and then came back and cleaned every drop and splatter of blood in the garage but forgot the car. Spending so much meticulous time cleaning the garage and keeping it looking like a mess and then not wiping up the obvious drops of his blood in the car is ridiculous..

I don’t know if Avery is guilty of not. The court system thinks he is, and I would like to believe in our justice system. However, if you watch the series, there are numerous suspicious introductions of “evidence,” inconsistencies with timelines, and most of the so called evidence was found in the third and fourth inspections of Avery’s house, by the Manitowoc County Police Department. The Manitowoc Police should not have been involved in the case at all because they were involved in the civil lawsuit with Avery.

Speaking of in-admissible actions in the trial, why is no one talking about Brenden Dassey. This child had the biggest injustice done to him when he was interrogated alone for hours upon hours until eventually he said what the detectives wanted to hear and was arrested. When you watch the series and watch the recorded interrogation sessions with Dassey, many things are evident. One, he doesn’t have a clue about what is going on. He did not at the time understand the severity of the interrogation or that he was a suspect. Two, he was alone. He is a minor and while it is suggested that Dassey’s mother gave permission for the solo interview, I find it unlikely that either understood the scope of this investigation. Three- after hours of wearing Dassey down and asking him repetitive questions, the first person to mention Dassey’s involvement and his “seeing” of Halbach at Avery’s was a detective, not Dassey himself. Four-it is very clear that Dassey is repeating what the detectives are telling him that he did and is just trying to please the authority figures.

Even after his arrest, Dassey was still interrogated without a lawyer present, which was allowed by his court appointed attorney. This guy did not have Dassey’s best interest at heart and if he did, he would have fought as lawyers do to get the first interrogation to be inadmissible. But he did not, according to the series.

The focus of the series is not necessarily to claim Avery and Dassey are innocent. The focus is to scrutinize the justice system and the lack of a fair trial for both of these men. Dassey should never have been tried. He did not have hired lawyers as Avery did. He did not have the mental capacity to even understand fully what was happening to him, yet the court pushed for harsh and cruel punishment. How the jury did not have an inkling of doubt about these two is shocking based on what is shown to us in the series.

Does the series cover everything? No, I’m sure it doesn’t. But the fact remains that out of what we see highlighted, i.e. the late discovery of Halbach’s key, the missing blood, the forced confession, the involvement of the county who was not to be involved, are all suspicious and worth questioning. Avery and Dassey, either guilty or innocent, should be granted appeals and be tried again simply because they were not granted their right to a fair trial in the first place. Avery and Dassey were painted as guilty across local news before the trial even took place and before the jury even voted. People in this country are innocent until proven guilty, but if injustices are occurring in our own justice system, how are we to trust the guilty votes now?