Making of a Murderer is a Netflix documentary that follows the life of Steven Avery, a convicted murderer. This documentary has been somewhat controversial, as it makes the argument that Steven Avery is innocent and that the Manitowoc County Police Department (Wisconsin) framed him. However, if you haven’t watched this enticing documentary, I urge you to. It will truly force you to question the justice system.
Steven Avery is a man who was found guilty of a sexual assault in 1985, in his hometown of Manitowoc County, Wisconsin. Avery maintained his innocence throughout the trial and even after his conviction. During this time, his family stressed the fact that Steven was not a dangerous person and would never commit such a crime. As it turns out, they were right.
After spending 18 years in prison for this sexual assault, Avery was exonerated when new DNA evidence came to light and proved that another man was guilty of this crime. Later, Avery and his lawyers found out that the Manitowoc County Police and District Attorney were fully aware that Steven was innocent of the sexual assault. In fact, they had made attempts to hide the fact that Avery was innocent by covering up evidence and leading the victim to think that Avery committed the assault.
Because of this, Avery set out to sue the Manitowoc County Police Department. Once Avery was exonerated and released from jail, the public were made aware of his lawsuit and about the fact that the justice system of this country failed him. Different organizations approached him and got his lawsuit on national television. Things were looking very good for him, until the remains of a missing woman were found on his property.
A photographer named Theresa Halbach had come to Avery’s property in November of 2005. Her intentions were to take pictures of the cars on his property that were for sale, but somehow she ended up dead. Avery, and eventually his nephew Brendan, were charged and ultimately convicted of her murder.
The investigation into Avery’s home and property reveals several inconsistencies and mishaps. Although Theresa’s remains were found on his property, it is unclear exactly how they got there. Some reports reveal that her bones may have been moved from elsewhere. Additionally, when the police initially investigated his home, they were unable to find any evidence indicated that Avery had committed the crime. In fact, they had entered Avery’s home 8 times before they found their first piece of evidence: Theresa’s car key. The makers of the documentary make it clear to the audience that in typical criminal investigations, if investigators do not find any evidence after one search, they will move onto other suspects. However, in this case, there were no other suspects aside from Avery. The police did everything they could to try to find a reason to charge Avery.
Even more disturbingly, the police brought in Avery’s mentally slow nephew, Brendan Dassey, for questioning. During their interrogation, they fed Brendan information, allowing Brendan to come up with a story regarding his involvement in Theresa’s death. Eventually, Brendan had told investigators that he was involved in her killing (at the urging of police) and had a elaborate story regarding her death.
This is significant because Dassey was only 16 at the time of this, and it had been reported that he had the mental capacity of a 4th grader. When watching the interrogation, it is quite disturbing to see how the police lead him into saying that he was involved in her death. At first glance, one may wonder how Dassey would come up with such an elaborate story. However, at trial, he later admits that he stole that story right out of a James Patterson novel.
The goal of the documentary is to make the case that the police framed Avery and his nephew, in order to get his lawsuit against them dismissed. Surely this sounds ludicrous, but the documentary really portrays how inconsistent and strange the police’s case truly is.
What’s worse, Avery and Dassey were actually found guilty of this murder. However, it is fair to say they did not receive a fair trial. The Halbach case had been on national news, especially when Avery was named #1 suspect. The nation already knew who he was, and it’s safe to say that anywhere in the United States, people were likely biased against this case. But the case was held right in the town that it happened in, making it a very hard case for the defense to prove. Additionally, the DA’s office had hard evidence, like Dassey’s confession. Yet the defense was not able to explain that Dassey was mentally challenged and that he was lead by investigators to say what he said.
Today, Dassey and Avery are in prison for life. Dassey has the opportunity to get released on parole in his early-mid 50s. Avery does not.
It is a sad day when the justice system fails someone, and to me, it looks like it may have failed Brendan Dassey, and Steven Avery (twice). It is hard to say exactly what happened to Theresa Halbach and how she died, and certainly there are many theories that I could go through that exist all over the internet. I believe, however, at the very least, there is enough reasonable doubt, to see that Steven Avery may be not guilty.
U.S. Magazine even points out that during deliberation, one of the jurors truly believed that Avery was framed by the police. This unnamed juror stated that the other jurors did not want to hold out and cause a mistrial, because they were afraid for their own safety if they were to do that. It is truly shocking what goes on in the background of criminal trials and how difficult it can be for defense attorneys to have a fair chance at winning.
Avery’s defense attorney’s names were Dean Strang and Jerry Buting. They will be making an appearance at a DUI conference that I will be attending. I look forward to hearing them speak and hearing about the hurdles that they had to jump through in order to get through with the case.
ABC news gives another account of this documentary and you can read about that here.