Netflix are on fire lately, Master of None, Jessica Jones, Narcos and Sense8 have all shown that Netflix is on the right path and new documentary series Making a Murderer is no different. It’s excellent!
Believe me when I say it’s bingeworthy and I guarantee it will have you shouting WHAT?! at your TV at least 3 times per episode.
This series tells the story of Steven Avery, a man falsely imprisoned for rape in 1985. He spent 18 years in prison until technology had reached a point where better DNA testing could be achieved. The DNA tests proved he didn’t commit the rape and he was released in 2003.
The first episode makes it perfectly clear that the police were aware of another suspect at the time of Avery’s arrest but made no moves to have him questioned, Avery also had an alibi for the time of the rape. This is the beginning of the prejudice that follows Avery throughout his life.
After his release from prison, Avery filed a $36 million federal lawsuit against Manitowoc County, its former sheriff, Thomas Kocourek, and its former district attorney, Denis Vogel. This lawsuit was to make up for the 18 years Avery spent in prison.
Two years after his release and not long before he was potentially due to receive a payout for his false incarceration he would be arrested for the murder of Teresa Halbach.
25 year old photographer Teresa Halbach was scheduled to meet with Steven Avery at his home on the grounds of Avery’s Auto Salvage on the 31st of October, to photograph a minivan for Auto Trader Magazine. She was never seen alive again.
Bone fragments and teeth belonging to Teresa were found among ashes in a fire pit behind Avery’s house and both her blood and Avery’s was found in her car which had been hidden on the Avery’s 40 acre salvage yard.
Avery was arrested for her murder and shortly after his 16 year old nephew Brendan Dassey was arrested as an accomplice.
The introduction of Brendan brings another aspect to the series. Brendan, whose IQ is around 70 is highly susceptible. The policemen interviewing him, alone I might add, no lawyer or parent present – bully him into confessing. Watching the video of these two men taking total advantage of a vulnerable child is sickening. And it’s hard not to be moved when you hear the recorded phonecalls between Brendan and his Mother.
Neither of them have the language to really articulate what’s going on. Things get worse for Brendan from here, his appointed lawyer is a grinning fool who’s clearly only interested in getting Brendan to plead guilty.
The series took ten years in the make and covers a 30 year period. 10 episodes give the series plenty of time to examine most aspects of the trial. Filmmakers Laura Ricciardi and Moira Demos heard about Avery’s case in November 2005, when the case made the front page of the New York Times while they were film students at Columbia University. Ricciardi and Demos have made an excellent series and I urge you to watch it.
Making a Murderer puts this trial under the spotlight and raises questions about justice, police corruption, morality, the media and it’s responsibility when it comes to serious crime reporting, education and more.
And as shocking as the case is, it is not the first of its kind. Avery’s story is nothing new. The West Memphis 3 is another example of gross misconduct and a seriously questionable trial. But these are just the cases that get the attention, it’s worth remembering that corruption is common and not everyone sitting in prison is meant to be there.
Whether or not Avery is in fact guilty or not is irrelevant, the whole point of the series is to show the injustices within the criminal justice system. Steven Avery and Brendan Dassey did not receive fair trials.
The right to a fair trial is absolute and cannot be limited. It requires a fair and public hearing within a reasonable time by an independent and impartial tribunal established by law. (including unbiased jurors!).
Two potentially innocent people in prison is not justice for Teresa Halbach, two people put through an unfair trial is not justice for Teresa Halbach. Its that simple.
Making a Murderer is excellent television as it makes you think, it forces you to evaluate how you feel about the justice system, you can’t help but become an armchair laywer, shouting objection! at the TV.
I thoroughly recommend that people watch this series, it’s brilliantly put together, it’s comprehensive without being information overkill and it reminds us that the truth can be stranger than fiction.