With “Making a Murderer,” I don’t know that I can take ten episodes of disgusting behavior by the very authorities who are supposed to be upholding the law. Man this series has me even more paranoid about what the government is capable of doing. Now that I’ve watched Steven Avery‘s life ripped up by a simple little county government, it’s apparent how powerful a corrupt government can be especially if several members are working toward a common goal.
Now that Steven Avery has been arrested for the killing of a local photographer, Teresa Halbach, the rest of his life is circling the drain as well. The $450K that was coming from the state legislature has been canceled. The politicians so eager to get in front of the innocent Avery parade are now avoiding the guy like he has swine flu.
The bill crafted in Avery’s name to protect innocent folks arrested in shady circumstances does move forward into law, but is done so behind closed doors. Can’t have a piece of legislation named after a man that is currently locked up for killing a young woman.
As for the civil lawsuit against the county? Those proceedings have stopped in their tracks. The preliminary hearing for Avery to face this new murder charge caused a wrinkle in that schedule.
It’s pretty surprising that Avery didn’t just hang himself in his jail cell at this point. It takes some real patience to sit for 18 years awaiting justice. I have no idea what it takes for a human being to hold any hope after being freed only to be thrown right back in jail for another murder.
He does tell his parents over the phone that he “is sick of this world.”
One of his lawyer’s who helped exonerate him in his last conviction notes that Avery needs lots of money for a proper defense in the trial for the murder of Halbach. He obviously has no money and the Innocence Project is even distancing itself from the man they helped free. This group should consider staying on with clients in “overtime” situations like Avery’s, just in case the government is bold enough to keep attacking the same innocent party.
Avery decides to settle his lawsuit against Manitowoc County in order to get some money for a real lawyer instead of the public defender who was likely a shill for the county. Public defenders are usually the bottom of the barrel and the only option for poor folks with no way to pay for a lawyer with experience and a good track record.
The court appointed defenders usually look for a quick plea deal and move on to the next case.
Avery received $400K instead of the $36 million his legal team had sought! That was only $240,000 after lawyer fees. Terrible!
But at least, he had some money to hire competent counsel. The settlement was the only card he had left to play.
Sickening that the county had to admit no wrongdoing as part of the settlement agreement.
Two new lawyers are recommended by his former legal team and Dean Strang along with Jerry Buting agree to take the case.
It sounds outrageous that the cops would plant evidence just to get out of the lawsuit, but that is the what the defense team is going to use to show how the evidence ended up on Steven Avery’s property.
Brace yourself for a plot twist.
The prosecutors announce they have arrested Brendan Dassey, the 16 year old nephew of Avery, who admitted that he and his uncle Steven raped and killed Ms. Halbach. During the press conference, special prosecutor Ken Kratz lays out in gruesome detail how this kid and Mr. Avery tortured and eventually ended the life of this poor female victim.
This causes an obvious rift between Steven and his sister who is the mother of Brendan. Though she later asks for money from her brother to get a decent lawyer for her kid.
At about this same time in 2006 Steven’s fiance Jodi is released from her seven month stay in jail for DUI. She is hounded by reporters as she goes to visit her boyfriend in jail. What these reporters must think of these country folks.
At this point public perception has turned on Avery as even his brother believes he’s guilty. Teresa Halbach’s brother is a constant on the news saying what a monster the guy is.
This is how the public sees these cases. The average Joe has zero time to look over court documents to see what the truth really looks like. They are too busy living their own lives trying to keep their families fed. They rely on the news reports and talking heads to tell them what’s going on and who is guilty of what.
If it takes an awful loud mouth like Nancy Grace to get TV viewers’ attention to deliver “legal” news then so be it.
How bad has it gotten for Avery? His mother is a broken person, haggard and worn out from two decades of fighting a system against which they are not equipped to do battle. His fiance is being harassed by investigators as well. Oh and people are saying out loud that it would have been better if Steven Avery had remained locked up for a crime he did not commit since it would have saved the life of Teresa Halbach!
The sheriff is basically saying that even though these corrupt county law enforcers set Avery up, in the long run it was for the best. Representative Gundrum even says similar things on camera. Amazing.
After pausing the episode to makes sure I was still watching a documentary and not a fictional made for TV movie, I got back to the show and saw how Brendan Dassey became wrapped up in this case. Kid is dumb as a bag of hammers. Easy pickings for investigators. It’s not like a sophomore in high school is a match for seasoned detectives, but this kid was so naive that he thought he was going to be allowed back to class to turn in a project after he confessed to helping kill Ms. Halbach.
Special prosecutor Ken Katz, during his presser, had made it sound like Brendan laid out the murder in exact detail. Not quite. The taped interrogation of Brendan, with no legal counsel present of course, showed the two detectives hounding the kid as they tried to put words in his mouth.
The key detail of the case involving Halbach being shot in the head was never made public. If Brendan mentioned that fact, this case would be easy to wrap up. He was pushed and pushed to mention that but never did….clearly because he had no idea what happened to the lady!
The detective finally had to ask directly about her being shot in the head.
It may be hard for some to think that investigators could get someone to admit to a crime they were not a part of, but that’s simply because they have never felt the pressure of being locked in a room with a pair of detectives. These guys know how to use psychological warfare and with a young man that was equipped with the standard Avery family IQ of 73, the cops had a field day.
A few more minutes and Brendan would have admitted that he killed President Kennedy back in the day.
The human mind can be bent to the will of others when the right pressure is applied. Don’t be so quick to assume you wouldn’t break down when hounded for three hours. You may not be so stupid as to actually say how you helped kill someone you never even met like Brendan did, but you could certainly slip up by saying things that could be used against you later in court.
The episode wraps up by showing just how important it was to have Brendan part of the investigation. He was Steven Avery’s alibi the day that Halbach went missing. So he went from a defense witness to the star witness for the prosecution. Quite a swing in favor of the court system.
This quiet, docile, slow learning kid was simply bullied by the police into telling them what they wanted to hear. The details he gave were one word answers spoon fed to him by his interrogators, but it mattered not. The justice system had all they needed to publicly paint Steven Avery into a monster with the juicy details provided by his 16 year old nephew.
Legal tip of the day: LAWYER UP, if you ever find yourself locked in a room with men with badges who offer you soda or coffee.
In the upcoming episode four, I have to believe Brendan’s story will be picked apart by the defense team. Stay tuned.
“Making A Murderer” is very thorough having ten hour-long episodes, but there are a few things that were either left out or skipped over rather quickly that may give just a little more depth. It’s not things that can make a powerful impact, but things that are interesting nonetheless.
The state legislature’s Avery Bill did indeed pass, and pass unanimously — but it was swiftly rebranded.
The Wisconsin Innocence Project, which was instrumental in springing Avery from prison, hailed the bipartisan bill as “a good step in the right direction” the summer before it passed. It included a number of reforms, among them new best practices for handling eyewitnesses.
If you Google it, though, you will not turn up much information. That’s because “Avery Bill” is not the preferred nomenclature: “Criminal Justice Reforms Bill,” please. Supposedly out of respect for Halbach’s family, the legislators involved wasted no time in distancing themselves from a man who had gone from villain to hero and back again.
Halbach and Avery knew each other.
This fatal encounter wasn’t their first; Halbach and Avery had worked together numerous times before — Halbach had photographed vehicles Avery was selling through Auto Trader magazine. That doesn’t necessarily imply some sort of forethought or planning on Avery’s part, nor does it indicate a motive, but it seems relevant.
Avery had requested that Halbach’s magazine, Auto Trader, send her specifically, saying, “Send the girl who was out here before.”
Avery’s relationship with his girlfriend, Jodi Stachowski, introduced in episode two, was more tumultuous than depicted.
According to a 2006 longform piece on Avery in Milwaukee Magazine, he was arrested in 2004 over an “altercation” with Stachowski, fined, and ordered to stay away from her for three days.
Yes, it was legal for investigators to question Brendan Dassey without a lawyer present.
Although we hear nothing about investigators giving Dassey a Miranda warning in episodes three or four, investigators maintain that he was indeed read his rights and waived them. Those rights, in case you need a refresher, include a suspect’s ability to remain silent, even while being officially interrogated, because anything they say can and will be held against them; and the fact that a suspect is entitled to an attorney, regardless of their ability to afford one.
The Supreme Court has since ruled, in 2011, that police officers have to exercise caution while interrogating minors. “Children will often feel bound to submit to police questioning when an adult in the same circumstances would feel free to leave,” wrote Justice Sotomayor, on behalf of the majority, which reasoned that, “because of their relative immaturity and lack of experience, children ‘cannot be viewed simply as miniature adults.’”
There is a legitimate reason judicial officials keep bringing up IQ scores.
In episode one, the court declares that Avery’s IQ was recorded to be 70. Dassey’s IQ, the judge tells us in episode four, is comparable, ranging from 69-73. Why does it matter? Because a score of 70 is often used as a cut off for intellectual disability.
North Carolina defines mental retardation as “significantly subaverage general intellectual functioning” with “[a]n intelligence quotient of 70 or below.” And in 1978, a case went to the U.S. Supreme Court because a defendant, who was found guilty of rape and murder and was sentenced to death, had an IQ of 71, and the Florida Supreme Court held that “his intellectual disability rendered him ineligible for execution.”
Wisconsin seems to have a more holistic definition of intellectual disability, based on a number of criteria rather than the results of one specific test. Still, it seems particularly egregious in Dassey’s case that he should be treated the way he was when his IQ should have served as yet another indication that he was not equipped to fully understand the scope and ramifications of a police interrogation — and certainly not on his own.