Like a lot of people around the world, I am only just recovering from my addiction to Netflix‘s docuseries Making a Murderer. I was so hooked on the tale of injustice, corruption and treachery that I found myself clucking at my desk impatiently waiting for work to be over so I could get home and have another fix. I would have taken my dose of the 10 episode series intravenously if I could, and have to admit to experiencing withdrawal symptoms when it was all over.
In the unlikely event the juggernaut that is Making a Murderer passed you unnoticed, the summary I am about to give will not do the 10 year long investigation by filmmakers Moira Demos and Laura Ricciardi any justice. In short, a small town nobody (Steven Avery) is released from jail after serving 18 years for a sexual assault and attempted murder he didn’t commit. Needless to say compensation is in order — $36 million to be precise. Just as Manitowoc council is about to have to pay the crippling sum, Avery winds up in the clutches of the law once again when the burnt remains of photographer, Theresa Halback, is found on his property. As the story unravels, it’s fair to assume that it’s a fit up and a heat breaking one at that. Avery’s nephew — 16-year-old Brendan Dassey with suspected learning difficulties — ends up embroiled in the prosecution’s attempt to secure a conviction which would see the county escape accusations of incompetence and of course leave its coffers in tact.
It’s hard to get to the end of a watch so fascinating and unbelievably remarkable without learning a thing or two.
1.The legal system is riddled with corruption and injustice
Defence lawyers in cahoots with prosecution, police officers closing ranks and protecting their own, the mishandling and even planting of key evidence. Making a Murderer exposed all this and more in a way that has quite rightly put the justice system under a microscope.
If anything is to be learned from a documentary like this: there is a reason why some behind bars are unwavering in their protestations of innocence despite the “overwhelming evidence” stacked against them.
2. Some people are genuinely shocked there is corruption and injustice in the legal system
Aah bless ’em. There are actually people in the world who are firm in the belief that the legal system perfectly fulfils its remit of protecting citizens and issuing just punishment . Making a Murderer has absolutely rocked the very foundations they stand on.
To be fair to them, complete faith in the justice system is a privilege not afforded to many who have had first hand experience with it. Disproportionate sentences dished out to certain sections of society on the one hand; and on the other hand victims of crime seeing perpetrators walk away with nothing more than a slap on the wrist is enough to make anyone question how fair the system is.
Perhaps now debates on penal reform garner more interest from those who were previously oblivious to the problem.
3. People are more comfortable discussing the flaws in the legal system when the victims of it’s failures are white
Now for the elephant in the room. People being sent to prison for crimes they didn’t commit only to be exonerated when the best part of their lives have been spent behind bars is nothing new. Just ask the Central Park Five, the Tottenham Three, Glenn Ford and more recently Clarence Moses-EL.
Perhaps the reason for this is that when a person of colour falls foul of a broken system, the issue of race inevitably stymies any real analysis of what went wrong and makes the assumption that race is always the sole defining factor in such a catastrophic miscarriage of justice.
Without the “distraction” of skin colour, Making a Murderer was able to evidence how anyone can fall victim to lazy police work, inexperienced lawyers and a system determined to save face when accused of inherent corruption and systematic failures.
4. The public have no qualms on meting out judgement of their own
While the courts have determined Avery and Dassey to be rapists and murderers, the public have acquitted the men of all charges via the internet. Petitions have been signed demanding retrials or exonerations and the momentum continues to work in the men’s favour as new evidence and public pressure could see them have their day in court again.
Disgraced District Attorney, Ken Kratz, has found himself at the mercy of keyboard warriors determined to dole out a sentence of a lifetime of internet trolling with no chance of early release. Outrageous memes have been doing the rounds and his law firm has received some of the most hilarious reviews on Yelp
There will come a time no doubt when the fire dies down, but for now the internet has been set ablaze with a raging inferno aimed at all of those who played a part in putting Avery and Dassey behind bars.
5. They didn’t do it
I have yet to speak to anyone who is in any doubt about the innocence of the two men that were convicted for the murder of Teresa Halbach. Who knows if the pair will ever have their sentences quashed — or if the true murderer(s) of Ms Halbach will ever face justice?
What I do know for certain is that this is a story that will definitely continue to capture the curiosity of all those who come across it for years to come.