Unless you’ve been living under a rock this holiday season, you have probably watched (or know someone who has recently watched) Netflix’s newest documentary on Steven Avery, Making a Murderer. I can’t recall a time when a true crime documentary has ignited the country this quickly and so furiously. If you don’t already know, Making a Murderer is documentary created by Laura Ricciardi and Moira Demos, filmmakers following the case of Steven Avery, a man who was wrongly convicted of beating and raping a woman in Manitowoc County, Wisconsin, in 1985. He served 18 years in prison before new DNA evidence tested by the Wisconsin Innocence Project exonerated him, proving the assailant was another man already in prison for similar crimes, Gregory Allen. Easy, right? Well, that’s just the first episode. Things begin to get complicated after that. Of course, Steven Avery filed a $36 million lawsuit against Manitowoc County and several officials that had a hand in convicting him, as any man who’d just spent 18 years of his adult life wasting away in prison for a brutal crime he did not commit. Just as depositions were getting underway for that civil suit, a local photographer by the name of Teresa Halbach was reported missing on November 3, 2005. She was last seen on Steven Avery’s property on October 31, where he had arranged for her to take photographs of a van the family was putting up for sale. A full investigation began to unfold, and when search parties located Teresa’s green RAV 4 on the Avery property, all hell breaks loose. If you haven’t watched the series, I will warn you to stop reading here. Really, I think it’s much better to watch it with a fresh perspective and allow the creators of the documentary to lead you though the case piece by piece. So if you haven’t watched, stop reading now and go watch! Then come back here and leave me a comment below this post. I want to know what you think! If you have finished the series and are looking for more information, as well as what I think about the case, keep reading.
Like most of you who have watched the entire documentary, I was outraged–not only because it appears such a gross miscarriage of justice has been carried out upon this man, his sixteen-year-old nephew, and his family, but because the officials in the case are so goddamned smug about it. There were times when I found myself actually jumping off the couch and yelling at the TV. But isn’t that what a documentary is supposed to do? I needed to know more. What was left out? What didn’t we learn about the prosecution’s case? My husband and I watched the documentary in a whopping 3 days (it’s over ten hours long), and I am not kidding when I tell you I spent the next few days scouring the internet, reading everything I could about the case. It turns out, there were some pieces of evidence the DA presented (I’ll get into that in tomorrow’s post) that does give them a little more of a leg up in the case but, to me, I’m not sure it changes my mind much. What is clear to me is that it does appear evidence was planted–the key, the blood, the bullet, and (quite possibly) the SUV and the bones. If you think about it, that’s pretty much ALL the evidence they had, not counting Brendan Dassey’s clearly coerced and false confession that should have been thrown out immediately.
Yes, I believe officials planted the evidence, but I am also not 100% convinced Steven Avery is innocent. I do think it’s possible he could have killed her and tried to burn her body. When police located the car (on Nov 3, the day she was reported missing, when Sargeant Andrew Colburn so brazenly called in the plates to dispatch), I think a massive conspiracy was concocted to move the vehicle to the Avery lot and begin the process of planting that blood evidence, the key in Steven’s bedroom, and the bullet in his garage. It’s also possible (in my mind) that the burned body could have been found elsewhere (perhaps up at the quarry) along with her vehicle, and both were moved to the Avery lot in an attempt to place key evidence on his property. None of the Manitowoc County officials should have been involved in the search, but even if they were allowed, any evidence turned up by them should have been thrown out in court due to conflict of interest. Nonetheless, I still can’t rule out the idea that Steven could have been the perpetrator, cleaned up the crime scene pretty well, but then fell victim to the planted evidence pointing directly toward him. Despite all that, there is enough reasonable doubt in my mind, and as a jury member I would have been unable to convict him. I also can’t even believe Brendan Dassey’s case ever made it to trial on absolutely ZERO physical evidence and a flimsy false confession. That just blows my mind. What were they thinking?
Right now there are several petitions circulating for Steven Avery and Brendan Dassey’s freedom–this one on Change.org that now has over 100,000 signatures, and this one on whitehouse.gov that has nearly 20,000 signatures, both asking the President to pardon Avery and Dassey. While I’m not sure a Presidential pardon is the answer here, I do believe their convictions should be tossed immediately and they should be given the right to a FAIR trial. Did you watch the series? Let me know what you think in the comments below. I’m curious about your thoughts!
Oh! And as far as the Steven Avery’s defense attorneys, Dean Strang and Jerry Buting? This about sums it up for me (and probably thousands of other true crime fans):
— Kate Briquelet (@kbriquelet) December 29, 2015