After some hype by friends, I decided to sit down and watch the Netflix documentary, Making of Murderer. This blog may contain spoilers at some parts, so if you haven’t seen it, or want to make your own opinions, please keep that in mind. You can watch the first episode on YouTube, if you don’t have Netflix. Here is the trailer.
The program chronicles the life of a man, Steven Avery, who was wrongfully convicted of the rape and assault of a woman, and eighteen years later, exonerated by DNA evidence. However, he is later accused of the assault and murder of another woman, Teresa Halbach. The documentary shows the lead up the the trial and the subsequent aftermath.
Since I hold a BS in Criminology, I was very intrigued by the premise. I wanted to see what the film makers would show. I knew from my studies that the media can be and often is very biased when they have an agenda, BUT I went in with an open mind.
After watching, I compiled a list of final thoughts on the program.
Final views on Making A Murderer *contains spoilers*
I have little doubt in my mind Steven Avery was wrongfully convicted of his first crime. DNA evidence showed that, as well as the fact he was not in the area during the crime, as shown by his alibi. I feel the need to comment on this because it lays the foundations of what is to follow, including Avery’s contention that he was being targeted and harassed by the Manitowoc County Sheriff’s Department.
I was almost drawn in by the argument made by the defense about police corruption and tampering with evidence. The forensics presented in the documentary seemed to be poorly processed and there were some questionable practices by the Manitowoc County Sheriff’s Department, as presented by the defense. I wanted to know why other suspects were not looked at, but then again, I don’t know that for sure. I feel a lot of the case evidence shown in the documentary was presented to disprove police tampering, and completely dehumanized the victim, using her to sensationalize the actions of the offenders. I feel in the end, it was the inability to prove the key nor the blood were planted by Manitowoc deputies that sealed Steven Avery’s fate, however, I do feel reasonable doubt was raised, at least in my mind.
In regards to the victim, only snippets of her were shown. This wasn’t like your typical CI show where they go into detail about her upbringing, showing pictures of her childhood, etc. The same images were used, as well as a video of her. This documentary was clearly offender-centered, instead showing images of Steven Avery as a child. The documentary makers stated they offered to interview Teresa’s family, but they declined to participate. Perhaps they knew things would not be taken at face value. Again, that’s an opinion you’ll have to make if you watch.
I did not like the questioning tactics used on Brendan Dassey. The officers used very leading questions and put some words into his mouth, taking advantage of his low intelligence (according to the opinions/testimony shown in the documentary, I have not researched this topic further). I know interrogations are often intense, but the fact his initial lawyer was not present and his mother states she was never asked rings a bit fishy to me. People lie though, however I feel he was deprived of adequate counsel. If he had a lawyer present, he may have not been so impressionable to the police questioning. Saying that, I understand the documentary makers probably used what would be advantageous to their cause, a running theme throughout this program.
I read some news articles about a juror feeling they were threatened into making a guilty verdict, and that they came forward after the documentary aired. Were they so fearful of one sheriff’s department, that they were unable to express these concerns to the judge, knowing a man’s, well, two men’s lives in prison were on the line? Others have stated cases where Manitowoc deputies seem to have personal agendas. I think it would be worth investigating the department, but again, if there was so much concern, why were people not speaking out? Was the fear so great they were afraid to end up like Avery in his earlier case?
The documentary makers admitted to having an agenda, and that was to document the trial as they saw it. This is akin to Michael Moore and his own documentaries, but those gave no pretense about being biased. While I understand the documentary took over ten years to complete, by the end, the message was clear and the motivation even clearer. This was not done objectively, but I did not expect this to be the case, although I hoped. I think deep down, I knew it wouldn’t be.
Finally, I ask that anyone who watches this really think about what you are being shown. How is the prosecution shown? The law enforcement? The defense? How are Steven Avery and Brendan Dassey portrayed? How did the humanizing of the offenders’ families make you feel? How has the media reacted? Go into this with a very open mind, like I did, and I do hope to hear some of your thoughts on the topic.
In conclusion, I would like to ask, how is this related to what authors do every day? We take an idea, twist it, make the reader believe what we want them to believe. We take you for a ride, all be it fictional. Then again, what aren’t you being shown? 🙂 I leave you with that thought, dear readers.
Update: I received this article from a friend. I suggest reading it after watching the documentary and seeing if it changes your perspective in any way.