True crime series ‘Making A Murderer’ has introduced the wider public to the fascinating case of Steven Avery, a man who was wrongly convicted in 1985 for sexual assault and exonerated 18 years later due to DNA evidence. That alone is enough to hook most viewers, but the unique twist in the story is that two years after he walked free, while he was suing the Manitowoc County for $36 million in damages, he and his nephew Brendan Dassey were charged and later convicted with the murder of a young woman called Teresa Halbach.
Much like the Paradise Lost trilogy that helped galvanize the public and a slew of celebrities to fight for the release of the West Memphis 3, the Netflix show has fomented a movement to do the same for Avery and Dassey.
Supporters claim the discovery of Teresa’s car at the Avery family compound, Steven’s blood and DNA found in and around the vehicle, the recovery of the key in his trailer, a spent bullet with Teresa’s DNA on it in his garage, and her burned remains on the property, were all planted by police as part of a conspiracy to protect the county from Avery’s lawsuit.
Although defense lawyers Dean Strang and Jerry Buting were unable to sow enough doubt in the court room, Laura Ricciardi and Moira Demos have used the art of film making to do so in the court of public opinion.
However not everybody is convinced. In a new WideShut Vlog I make an important distinction. It’s one thing to have doubt about Avery and Dassey’s guilt due to the obvious conflict of interest with the county and a shoddy prosecution, but it’s another to be certain of their innocence. We must take a step back and be careful not to jump on a bandwagon just because a slickly produced documentary series leads us in a certain direction.
I believe the focus should be on the system that prevented a fair trial, not necessarily the men themselves. They are in effect still suspects in a cold case.