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I’m Hopeless About Our Justice System. Thank You, Making A Murderer

By January 20, 2016 0
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If you are anything like me, you have spent a good portion of the New Year posted up on your couch watching Netflix’s Making a Murderer. Please note, spoilers ahead. Perhaps you saw your friends posting about it left and right on your various social media and wanted to see what all the fuss was about. Or you caught the filmmakers on the TODAY Show or the recent Seth Meyers’ parody or even soapbox-loving Nancy Grace squawking about it. It’s everywhere! I can only applaud Netflix for bringing a documentary this dark, this intricate, this important into pop culture. It’s trending harder than HBO’s The Jinx ever did and it essentially stole Serial’s season 2 thunder. After some serious binge-watching, I can ultimately attest that it lives up to the hype.

Making a Murderer is a ten-episode documentary written and directed by Laura Ricciardi and Moira Demos over the course of ten years. They were intrigued by the story of Steven Avery who had just recently been exonerated on rape charges after unjustly spending 18 years in prison. DNA evidence proved Steven was telling the truth. Just as Steven was beginning to get his life back together and making progress with his $36 million lawsuit against Manitowoc County, Wisconsin, he was charged and eventually convicted of the brutal murder of photographer Teresa Halbach. Steven was charged alongside his nephew, Brendan Dassey who was just a teenager at the time of the arrest. Brendan’s trial and eventual conviction is also covered in the docu-series.

I had zero clue who Steven Avery or Brendan Dassey were a few weeks ago, but I did have an idea of how fucked up our justice system is. Anyone who sits down to even watch the first episode is immediately hooked and confounded at the fact that someone could spend 18 years in prison for a crime they did not commit. This could happen to anyone. It could happen to you or me or a member of your family. The severe miscarriage of justice seems to be running rampant these days. When I think about the state of affairs in our country, I’m appalled at all things Trump, indignant about the extreme lack of gun control, and baffled by the severe level of abuse brought down by law enforcement. Movements such as #blacklivesmatter exist because racism and, in this case, classism still exist.

While I felt some empathy for Steven Avery after watching the first episode, I couldn’t help but look down on him. Steven Avery is definitely from the wrong side of the tracks and his criminal history is appalling. The series revealed his previous run-ins with the law; he tortured and killed a cat and, on a separate occasion, tried to run his cousin off the road. Steven was far from a model citizen, yet it was clear that shoddy investigative work and inherent prejudices led to his unjust rape conviction.

If Steven didn’t have bad luck, he’d have no luck at all. In 2007, Steven was convicted for the murder of photographer Teresa Halbach, whose remains and vehicle were found on the Avery family’s property. Despite the complete and utter lack of solid evidence, some of which may have been planted, and Brendan’s clearly coerced confessions, Steven sits behind bars today. Brendan Dassey, with an IQ below 70, sits behind bars as well. Similar to his first conviction, Steven steadfastly maintains his innocence. He is convinced he was framed for the murder of Teresa Halbach as payback for painting the Manitowoc County Sheriff’s department as bumbling fools for the way they mishandled his rape conviction.

So many of us watch mindless television these days and Making a Murderer is anything but mindless, the filmmakers present the facts as straight-forward as possible, but it is clear they are batting for the defense. The show is addictive for all the right reasons; society’s interest in these hot-button topics and how they relate to our own freedom is important for eventual change. I’m happy to hear my friends talking loudly about Steven Avery versus what happened on the latest Housewives episode. Additionally, due to the tremendous response to the documentary, various petitions garnered hundreds of thousands of signatures proclaiming Steven Avery and Brendan Dassey’s innocence and asking for a full pardon. Unfortunately, since they were convicted under state law, President Obama cannot pardon them. Yet it does give me some hope for society at large to see that people have actually taken action on behalf of Steven Avery. I myself signed a petition, not because I fully believe he is innocent, as I honestly don’t know, but I do know there is plenty of reasonable doubt.

How many people are unjustly convicted and don’t have the benefit of proper legal counsel or a Netflix documentary to get their voices heard? I can only pray I’m not one of those people someday.

I’ve seen and heard so many conflicting stories since watching the documentary from the prosecution and the defense that honestly makes me wonder if Steven did do it. His ex-fiancée, who stood so staunchly by his side during the filming of the documentary, was just on Nancy Grace last week and said he is 100% guilty. It is hard for me to believe this woman though, who has been in and out of jail herself, is now finally telling the truth. And don’t even get me started on Nancy Grace’s comments proclaiming Steven Avery is as guilty as the day is long. Ken Kratz, the prosecution on the case, also came forward recently stating that the documentary was made on behalf of the defense and left out critical information. Information that would leave behind no question of Steven’s guilt.

No matter what, the filmmakers did an incredible job of presenting the information and left behind a growing audience of people who may not know if he is guilty or not, but who collectively agree that Steven Avery has not been proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. We are the land of the free, but we can’t ever stop fighting for our freedom. Injustices will always exist in our country, but it is our duty as Americans to make sure the people we place in power do everything to maintain justice.

If you haven’t watched Making a Murderer then head home and watch it now. You won’t regret it. If you have seen it, do you think Steven is guilty beyond a shadow of a doubt? Or is his innocence lurking behind the shadows of our corrupt justice system?

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