Making a Murderer: Making A Murderer - entire first season
December 26, 2015 9:54 AM - Season 1 (Full Season) - Subscribe

Who is responsible when an innocent man is sent to prison? Discussion thread for entire first season of Making A Murderer (Netflix streaming).
posted by triggerfinger (113 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
 
I loved this series, but I think there was a lot of stuff left out or not explained that has been bothering me. I'm hoping people with better legalese can answer some of these questions.

- Why were the defense attorneys forbidden from introducing alternate theories? I didn't see any indication of who they thought might have done it, given that they believe that Steven is innocent, though I think it's unlikely they didn't have their own theories.

- If the whole prosecution is positing that Theresa was murdered in Steven's trailer, they why was there no blood, hair, DNA etc. found anywhere? It's not possible for that kind of a grisly murder to happen and for there to be no physical evidence of this sort. This seems like a major detail that was glossed over. And if it was indeed glossed over, it makes a conviction based on a car key, questionable blood stains in the truck and a highly suspect coerced confession even more appalling than it already is.

- Can a person with a borderline IQ (Brendan) really consent to waiving their Miranda Rights when they likely don't understand the implications of not having an attorney present during questioning? We've decided that people, in certain circumstances, are unable to consent to certain things (in a legal sense), so it seems surprising that this wouldn't be challenged in Brendan's case.
posted by triggerfinger at 10:11 AM on December 26, 2015 [5 favorites]




The call records are weird. I don't understand why you would call someone for just a few seconds. So Avery hid his phone number to call her three times, and each time ended the call before she had a chance to answer? Do I understand that right? What would be the point of that?
posted by meese at 12:17 PM on December 26, 2015


Just an enraging series (I'm up to episode 6 so far) and I'm not sure I'm completely trusting of the documentary filmmakers themselves, because they obviously have an agenda. This didn't really bother me with Serial, and I'm fairly sure I'm on their side, but I do wonder if there'll be a dissenting view to this documentary that doesn't just say that it's "unfair."

Still, if even a little bit of what is presented is accurate and true, it's incredibly damning of the justice system.
posted by xingcat at 3:00 PM on December 26, 2015


I just finished episode 7 - I'm not as far along as I thought I was. I don't know how people managed to binge this; I'm finding that I need lots of in-between time to process each episode. In this most recent episode I'm disgusted by the crime lab technician and the FBI scientist, both of whom absolutely perverted their methodology to buff up the prosecution.

The defense attorneys are amazing. I hope if I'm ever in a jam I can afford representation that's as good. Sadly I think I'd be more in "better call Saul" territory.
posted by sevenyearlurk at 3:29 PM on December 26, 2015 [4 favorites]


I just finished watching this. Man, that poor kid, he just had no clue what was coming.

I don't understand how a jury could convict him unless there's something big that we're missing. Just the lack of DNA evidence in the trailer or garage should be enough for reasonable doubt. The phone calls mentioned above are weird but there's no proof that it was Avery calling - wasn't there a few other people around that afternoon? Blaine and Bobby? I don't know why they would call her, maybe she was in the recent call list and they were curious who it was?

My theory based on nothing: I wonder if the real killer had some ties to law enforcement (but was not a cop) and police covered it up by pinning it on the easiest target. I've watched enough Dateline to know it's almost always the boyfriend or ex-boyfriend. The fact that the ex "guessed" her cell phone account password was super creepy. I don't remember if they asked him for an alibi in court.
posted by desjardins at 5:46 PM on December 26, 2015 [4 favorites]


That's the thing: reasonable doubt. Seems to be missing from a lot of discussions I've seen about this show where the people arguing think it's either Avery is an innocent angel or a guilty monster. In this case there is so much reasonable doubt that it's appalling that a jury would convict. And the conviction for Brenden is shameful, like "the jurors for that case should serve jail time" shameful. Back to Avery, though, I'm not 100% sure that he didn't do this, but the case as presented is the epitome of reasonable doubt.
posted by snwod at 6:22 PM on December 26, 2015 [13 favorites]


"Why were the defense attorneys forbidden from introducing alternate theories? I didn't see any indication of who they thought might have done it, given that they believe that Steven is innocent, though I think it's unlikely they didn't have their own theories."

I haven't read anything from an attorney elaborating this, although I did read something from a paralegal who worked at a criminal law firm. But I'm pretty sure that I've heard about this sort of thing before.

As I understand it, you can cast doubt on the state's case in terms of their being another perpetrator and you can generally argue that someone else committed the crime, but you can only present an alternative theory of the crime, implicating someone else, if you specifically make the arrangements to do so with the court beforehand. I think you have to inform the prosecution and the court has to rule on it.

In this case, the court did rule on what the defense wanted to do, and it was that they would not be allowed to argue for an alternative theory of the crime unless they were willing to be more specific about it than they wanted to be. Otherwise, they could be general about it, but not specifically argue about what and who.

"If the whole prosecution is positing that Theresa was murdered in Steven's trailer, they why was there no blood, hair, DNA etc. found anywhere? It's not possible for that kind of a grisly murder to happen and for there to be no physical evidence of this sort. This seems like a major detail that was glossed over. And if it was indeed glossed over, it makes a conviction based on a car key, questionable blood stains in the truck and a highly suspect coerced confession even more appalling than it already is."

It was glossed over in the documentary. We don't know if the prosecution had an answer to this. Maybe they did. Probably they did.

This is one of the big problems I have with the show, in that we know that that the filmmakers elided from it some stuff that the audience would need to see in order to assess the case more knowledgeably. The big things are the several phone calls that Avery made to Halbach's phone -- at least one which would have been after she was photographing the van -- and that Barb Tadych noticed a bleached spot on Brendan Dassey's pants that night (or the next day, I can't recall) and asked him about it, to which Brendon replied that he'd been using bleach to clean the storage shed's floor with Steven. She told this to the police.

They also did find in Steven's house the ropes and shackles that Brendon described, although it's entirely possible that they fed that information to him as they did with most of his confession.

Furthermore, there was ballistics evidence presented matching the bullet they found to Steven's .22 rifle.

Basically, a lot of the case that the prosecution presented we don't see on the show, which gives the audience a pretty biased impression.

Another example is the whole thing with Colburn calling in Halbach's plates. The show (in an understated but unambiguous fashion) makes a big deal of this, but never follows up on it. And I have a strong hunch that they didn't follow up on it because there's a perfectly reasonably explanation for it that was possibly clarified in the trial, but not shown. The day that he called that in was November 3rd and Hallbach had been reported missing that very day. It makes a lot of sense that he'd already heard that plate number and the description of her vehicle several times and he was calling the dispatcher just to double-check his memory. The show makes it seem -- as the prosecutors were trying to imply -- that Colbun was actually looking at Hallbach's SUV when he made the call. But notice also how quickly the dispatcher answers his question -- it was instantaneously. I don't think there was time for her to have typed it in and to be reading the information that came up. She already had it in front of her, or just had it memorized at that point.

A number of things that the defense or the show make a big deal about have similar explanations. Why would Avery hide the SUV when he had access to a car crusher? Why would he burn the body in a bonfire when he had access to a smelter? But we don't know that he did have unrestricted and unobserved access to either of those two things the evening that he allegedly killed her. Maybe he did. Maybe one of his brothers or other workers were operating or near that machinery when he would have needed access to it. And maybe the prosecution answered these questions at trial and we weren't shown it.

All in all, there's no question in my mind that the show portrays some big mistakes and injustices in both law enforcement and in criminal justice. But I don't agree with many people that Avery or even Brendon are obviously innocent. I'm not sure about reasonable doubt in Avery's case, because I don't feel confident that the prosecution didn't present a much stronger case than what the show includes. Maybe they did and it arguably rises above the reasonable doubt standard for a jury. I don't know. I do know that the whole reasonable doubt thing with juries is interpreted by them wildly differently. With sympathetic defendants, they are more likely to see it as the standard it's intended to be. But I think that most prosecutions are like this one, with defendants who already have the deck stacked against them, and so juries interpret it almost as if it's that they should convict if they have a reasonable doubt that they are innocent. So the injustice shown with regard to Avery is most likely the sort of injustice we see in this US system every day. The police pick out someone they are pretty sure is the perpetrator -- they have a criminal history and they're either poor or non-white, or both -- and then prosecutors prosecute and juries convict because, hey, you can tell just by looking at him, right? From a descriptive sense -- the way that it actually works in courts in the US -- Avery being the last person to see Halbach and having her bones next to his house and having that key in his room and his blood in her car, well, that's far more evidence than most juries need to rise above "reasonable doubt". We may agree that it oughtn't be this way, but that's the way that it is.

The bigger injustice is Dassey. But even that's not so unusual. He was taking a couple of special ed classes, but the bar for being thought legally to not have the capacity to confess or to plead is set very high relative to what you'd expect. And, as the defense attorneys mentioned, the tactics used by the police and by the execrable O'Kelley (the "defense" investigator) are tactics that are standard procedure because the assumption is always that such suspects are guilty and any strongarming or suggestion or manipulation you use to get a confession is just getting the truth that you already know is there. Despite all the sad evidence to the contrary, even (or especially) police and prosecutors believe that innocent people don't confess.

I find that reading comments at places like the A.V. Club have bothered me because so much of the reaction is uninformed in various ways. On one side, you get locals who are absolutely positive that Avery and Dassey are guilty on the basis of the fact that they know the truth because they're local and they watched and read all the news reports at the time. They think that what they saw in the press and what people talked about from the press reports is the truth in a way that the documentary is not. And on the other side are people who are convinced that Dassey is innocent and Avery probably innocent, and many think that the police actually killed Halbach, all on the basis of what they saw in the show. And most of those people think that the questionable choices and behavior, or outright misconduct, of law enforcement and the first PD and the prosecution and the courts is egregious to the point of being comical, a caricature of small town bias and incompetence, such that they don't understand how the WI Supreme Court didn't give Dassey any relief and they expect petitions and such to make a difference now ... when the truth is that this is how law enforcement and the courts work everywhere in the US, every day.

The state actually has a formal responsibility to the truth in a way that the defense does not. For example, the defense does not have to disclose any and all information to the prosecution they have that would strengthen the prosecution's case. But it doesn't work the same way in the other direction -- the prosecution does have a responsibility to disclose to the defense exculpatory information. And this because the state, by its very nature, has a different set of responsibilities than the defense has. The state is ultimately charged with the welfare of everyone, that's why they're prosecuting crimes.

But our system is set up as an advocacy and adversarial system and that mindset strongly alters how the state thinks and behaves in practice. Prosecutors see themselves as the precise counterpart to defense attorneys -- their job is to win the case, not discover the truth and achieve justice. This is without even discussing how having elected DAs comes with its own set of distortions away from truth and justice. And law enforcement is even more biased -- there's very little "protect and serve" but instead, they see themselves as heroes in a never-ending war against criminals ... which not only are very much "those kind of people", but also potentially everyone. Police these days see everyone who isn't law enforcement as potentially the enemy, they have a siege mentality. In the end, then, so much of the process that is ostensibly about establishing truth and finding justice really just functions as mere process, a set of hoops that law enforcement and prosecutors believe they must tediously jump through as part of putting in prison the people that they've known all along are guilty. Nowhere can you see this better than by comparing The Jinx with Making a Murderer. If you don't seem like a murderer, then the police and prosecutors and juries will all turn a blind eye, while if you do look like a murderer, then they don't really need any evidence at all.

"The fact that the ex 'guessed' her cell phone account password was super creepy. I don't remember if they asked him for an alibi in court."

Even more creepy was that he didn't remember even what time of day it was that he last saw Halbach and his body language when he answered that question on the stand. Just based on what I saw in the show, I have some serious questions about the ex-boyfriend.

But we don't know what else happened in his testimony in court, or whether the police investigated him, or what they found. The show is utterly silent on this, leaving us with the impression that what we were shown is the totality of it. That he wasn't investigated, that there wasn't any more testimony that answers some of these questions, etc. But I already know that the show didn't show some important stuff -- I'm unwilling to give it the benefit of the doubt that, for example, the ex-boyfriend doesn't have a rock-solid alibi for that entire day. Maybe he does.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 6:30 PM on December 26, 2015 [13 favorites]


It was glossed over in the documentary. We don't know if the prosecution had an answer to this. Maybe they did. Probably they did.

This is what's bothering me so much. That it seems like the documentary glossed over what seemed like pretty major things. Even things that they themselves had introduced - the license plate detail, the car crusher - I'm not even sure they really presented a theory of how the bones might have gotten into the burn pit if they were moved there. They might have, but if so, I missed it. Like, they start by making a pretty good case with introducing serious questions with how the investigation was conducted, but then they sort of...drop it and don't really follow up, nor do they really address other issues that are pretty major. The link above about the prosecutor saying it's "unfair" has him saying that the show leaves out up to 90% of the physical evidence introduced into the trial. And while that guy is skeezy as hell, there's a part of me that wonders if there's some truth to that.

I think that Serial did a much more thorough job with introducing opposing evidence to the audience and admitting that they didn't have an answer to it. They at least presented it, and I thought they were much fairer in their treatment of the whole thing. I liked this show and it confirms a lot of my priors regarding law enforcement and the justice system, but even so, I felt the info we were given was extremely incomplete and that frustrates me, because I feel like I can't make a really informed decision on the whole thing.
posted by triggerfinger at 8:58 PM on December 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


"The link above about the prosecutor saying it's 'unfair' has him saying that the show leaves out up to 90% of the physical evidence introduced into the trial. And while that guy is skeezy as hell, there's a part of me that wonders if there's some truth to that."

I hate that guy and don't trust him at all, but I'm pretty sure that technically what he said is correct. I have no doubt that he presented a lot of physical evidence at the trial -- I do doubt whether it was very convincing. Note that he's not saying that there was physical evidence not shown (that is, other than the key, blood stains, and bullet) that directly connects Avery to the murder, just that there's physical evidence they didn't show. Such as the ropes and shackles. It's one thing that he had ropes and shackles but quite another if there was any forensic evidence connecting those with Halbach (which there wasn't, I'm certain). Absent any physical evidence actually connecting Halbach with the ropes and shackles, all that's left is Brendon's confession. And I'd bet good money that on the video tape you'll find them mentioning them, one way or another, to him first.

So I don't doubt that there's all sorts of physical evidence that kind of sort of makes a larger circumstantial case for Avery committing the murder. I doubt that there's anything that is conclusive the way that Kratz implies, though.

But I agree with your basic point. There's a moderately clear alternative theory of the murder that the documentary is presenting -- that someone else, with a line drawn under the ex-boyfriend and roommate, committed the murder and opportunistically framed Avery as the fall-guy. They killed her somewhere else, moved her body to that nearby location where they burned it, then brought the remains over to Avery's to plant it and also left the SUV there. If the killer was one of those two guys, later they basically direct the searchers to find the SUV. After the police start searching at Avery's place, they are frustrated that they don't find any good evidence in Avery's trailer. Because Avery had successfully proven himself innocent and was pursuing a lawsuit against the county, they were worried that somehow opinion or whatever would mean that he wouldn't be convicted if the only evidence they had was the remains on his property. So Lenk gets the key from the SUV that evening and later either he or Colburn plants it in Avery's room. Then I suppose the thinking is that one of them found that bullet, probably in the ashes. One of them plants it in the shed.

An alternative involves Colburn's call to the dispatcher. If he actually was looking at the SUV on November 3rd, then given that it was a couple of days until the searchers found it, you'd have to assume that either he or someone else in the police killed Halbach and planted everything, or they found Halbach's SUV and her body elsewhere and moved all this evidence to frame Avery. I find both of those theories to be pretty hard to believe, even accounting for it only being one or two people (Colburn and Lenk).

The problem with either of these alternative theories that the documentary is pointing to -- and the documentary, like me, favors the first one over the second (that is, overzealous police thinking that Avery is guilty and helping things along versus them either being the killers or knowing that someone else was the killer), not the least because that's what the defense attorneys are thinking -- is that basically every example of where the documentary leads the audience to find this alternative theory credible, they don't present anything at all to tell us whether a) they know of anything that casts doubt on each part of their argument, and b) whether the police and prosecution had any answer to each of these possibilities/insinuations.

What's the deal with the third remains site? Doesn't that argue that Avery didn't do it? Well, only if you accept what the documentary seems to be saying, that the prosecutions theory of the murder didn't in any way involve that third site. But we don't actually know this. We don't know what the prosecution had to say about that third site.

The same things are true about how Avery's blood evidence had been opened. We're led to believe that this is prima facie evidence of someone tampering with it, which we're also led to believe could only be explained by someone wanting a sample to frame him. But there could be a completely plausible explanation for why the seal had been broken and even for why the top had the hole. We never get anyone from law enforcement or the prosecution saying anything at all about that. And that bothers me, because I'm certain that they had something to say about it, some explanation.

We don't hear some other details about Brendon's cousin that I learned elsewhere -- exactly what she told her school counselor and when. We don't hear anything at all about the gun tied by ballistics evidence to the bullet in the shed. We don't hear about where it was found, what its history was. We don't hear about what the police or prosecution had to say about Brendon's brother and his stepfather's testimony, which conflicted with the bus driver. We don't ever hear anything at all about that bus driver.

Basically the documentary plants doubt in almost every direction it can find. And that's okay, because I think there's reason to have doubts about this case. What's not okay is that they pretty comprehensively exclude anything that follows-up on or critically examines all these doubts.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 9:55 PM on December 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


How does Lenk or Coburn get the key? Wouldn't it have been entered as evidence by that point? If so, there should be a record of who signed it in and out. If it was never entered into evidence,?then they'd been carrying it around for months just waiting to plant it? (IIRC it was found in March after Brendan's "confession."

Ropes and shackles in a bedroom are pretty easily explainable. Test the DNA on those and you either come up with Avery or a girlfriend. I mean, I also have duct tape and plastic wrap and chains in mine, and I'm no danger to anyone.
posted by desjardins at 5:47 AM on December 27, 2015


It wasn't found after Brendan's confession. It was found sometime in November or December. Steven was already in jail by the time Brendan confessed.

You guys articulated what I was going to say much better than I could have. But I also wonder what was the reporting like during the trial. The way the series shows it, the news reporters questioning the lawyers seemed to not take Steven's defense seriously at first and then began to believe it by the end. But the documentary doesn't actually show the news reports. did the trial get reported on in the same way? Did public opinion change?

I don't know if Steven did it or not but if the state is going to put away a man for life, they need to bring a better case than this and do better police work that can't be so easily picked apart.

Brendan's story is just heartbreaking. I guess I watch too much TV because I thought it was common for special procedures to happen when interviewing minors. How the appeals courts could not see his ineffective counsel was beyond me.

I also wonder about Theresa's family. They were not portrayed kindly and I really hope they don't get harassed from this.
posted by LizBoBiz at 12:58 PM on December 27, 2015


"How does Lenk or Coburn get the key? Wouldn't it have been entered as evidence by that point? If so, there should be a record of who signed it in and out. If it was never entered into evidence,?then they'd been carrying it around for months just waiting to plant it? (IIRC it was found in March after Brendan's 'confession.'"

No, Lenk found the key on November 8th. That was the piece of evidence that precipitated their immediate arrest of Avery. Pam Sturm and her daughter found Halbach's SUV on the morning of November 5th.

When the defense questioned Lenk on the stand, they established that the scene wasn't fully controlled until later that day and Lenk testified that he arrived on the scene around 2:30PM. But they showed that he had originally given in his statement months before that he had arrived that the scene at about 6:30PM and that the logs show that although he signed out of the scene at about 8:30PM, he never signed in. The implication is that while it might make sense that he didn't sign in at 2:30 because the scene wasn't fully controlled yet (and that protocol hadn't been implemented), he'd originally testified that he'd arrived there much later, after six, when he definitely should have signed in. So they're implying that there was a period of time during that day where he's been inconsistent about what he was doing, when access to the SUV wasn't being fully controlled, and when he could have gotten the key which he then planted just three days later.

"Ropes and shackles in a bedroom are pretty easily explainable. Test the DNA on those and you either come up with Avery or a girlfriend. I mean, I also have duct tape and plastic wrap and chains in mine, and I'm no danger to anyone."

Well, yeah, but that's not how juries think. Avery said that he had those to spice up his relationship with Jodi.

As for the DNA evidence about those, the problem with the test on the blood cuts both ways. Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence, and so on. That whole scene with the testimony from the expert witness about the test for the anticoagulant frustrated me because this is something even scientifically literate people don't understand, in the more general sense of that aphorism but very much also the more technical and specific senses of the different categories of tests and the statistical methods that apply to them. I don't believe that any jury, anywhere in the US is going to understand that at all and they're going to think that a test that fails to find the anticoagulant means that it's not there. Likewise, people will think the same thing about a DNA test of those ropes and shackles. Or for that matter, the key.

The retired LE guy that consulted for the defense is quite right that it's really weird that the key wouldn't have Halbach's DNA on it -- and the same is generally true of other things like the ropes and shackles. As was key to testimony about the bullet, the amplification technique that is necessary for DNA analysis is absurdly sensitive and powerful and that's why it's such a problem to avoid contamination. So what I know, as a layperson, is that it is surprising that testing of the key would show Avery's DNA and not Halbach's. But "surprising" is far from conclusive. I think that all things being equal, I would be hesitant to draw conclusions about the lack of Halbach's DNA on the ropes and shackles. I do agree that with her supposedly being restrained by them, her struggling, especially with ropes, would get some fine hairs and probably some skin and that if you were thorough enough, you'd pick that up. Even so, just because they didn't find it doesn't prove that it wasn't there, just as the case with the blood samples. The much bigger problem in my opinion is that the ropes and shackles is something they only have from Brendon's testimony, which also includes stabbing and throat cutting in that room, while she was restrained with them. It's hard to believe that there wouldn't be any blood spatter evidence anywhere on anything in that room, without even going into DNA.

The fundamental problem, though, is that the bones were found there, her SUV was found there, she was the last person anyone knows that she spoke to that day, that her key with his DNA was found in his bedroom, and that his gun was used to shoot her and that the bullet was found in his shed ... and that Brendon made a detailed confession about how and when Avery and Dassey killed her. To a jury, that's a huge preponderance of evidence. They're not going to think that an innocent person will confess and so even if the prosecution doesn't have a good explanation for why the ropes and shackles don't have any blood or DNA evidence on them, they'll think that Brendon's testimony and the mere existence of ropes and shackles in the bedroom of an accused murderer, which he admits to using to restrain a woman sexually (his partner) is obviously the tools of a murderer. I do think that the prosecution had an answer to the questions we have about this, no matter how unsatisfactory that explanation might be for us, but that they probably didn't need much of an explanation for that jury or any other jury.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 1:17 PM on December 27, 2015 [2 favorites]


Here's the thing that makes me hesitate about police (or someone) framing Avery: when could they have done it? Teresa's blood was found in the trunk area of the RAV4, so she wasn't burned when someone drove her to the salvage yard. Is the theory that she was burned AT the salvage yard (by someone other than Avery)? How would someone not have seen that? Certainly could not have been October 31, because there were at least some people around that night.

There were multiple people with views of the burn pit. If she was burned elsewhere (e.g. in that barrel), and then transported, how did no one see anyone dumping the bones in the pit (plus covering them up)? If she was shot in the garage, how did no one hear that? I think that at least 8 people (Steven, Jodi, Brendan's mom, Brendan, Brendan's brother, Brendan's stepfather, and Steven's parents) lived on the property. How would anyone know when they were all going to be gone? Surely someone was running the family business during the day. Surely someone would have heard a gunshot in the middle of the night.
posted by desjardins at 2:21 PM on December 27, 2015


"Teresa's blood was found in the trunk area of the RAV4, so she wasn't burned when someone drove her to the salvage yard. Is the theory that she was burned AT the salvage yard (by someone other than Avery)?"

No, the implied theory is that she was shot elsewhere, put in the back of her SUV and taken to that third location (off but near the Avery's property -- an old quarry, was it?) where she was burned. Later -- anytime within three days -- both those remains and the SUV were planted at the Avery location. Someone could have dumped her remains there in the middle of the night on any of the nights from the 31st through the 3rd. But one of Avery's brothers -- and Avery himself, IIRC -- saw one or more unknown lights from a vehicle on their property that night, so I think the implication is that this was done late on the 31st. And that would make some sense, if there was someone who was planning this out and had observed that Avery had built a bonfire that evening.

"If she was shot in the garage, how did no one hear that? I think that at least 8 people (Steven, Jodi, Brendan's mom, Brendan, Brendan's brother, Brendan's stepfather, and Steven's parents) lived on the property."

The defense's implied theory is that she was killed elsewhere -- either not on the property or at some more remote location of the property. Not in the garage. The implied theory is that nothing occurred in the garage at all and the bullet was planted there.

More to the point, it's the prosecution's argument that Halbach was shot in the garage that night. More than once, as a matter of fact. So your objection that someone would have heard that applies the the prosecution's case, not the defense's.

The third-party theory has the virtue of requiring the killer to place only Halbach's SUV and her remains on the property, presumably at about the same time, at any time before they were discovered. One, the SUV, in a corner away from everyone else, and the other a manageable amount of remains in a barrel that could be handled by a single person in the dark. The hypothetical third-party isn't responsible for the key or the bullet and if this was premeditated, which in this scenario I think is more likely (such as the ex or the stalker, who might have been the stalker), then they could have already been or had made themselves familiar with the property and the Avery family's habits.

More pointedly, if it was another member of the Avery family, they could be very well positioned to this. Better than Avery, because no one is really paying attention to them.

In conjunction with that half of it, the third-person theory also makes the police's hypothetical planting of evidence much more plausible, too. Lenk or Colburn would only have had to plant evidence on two occasions and two locations they had access to, with the one somewhat greater difficulty being getting the key in the first place.

In contrast, either a third-party doing everything, or a member of law enforcement being the murderer and doing everything, ends up having the sorts of problems that you're pointing out. If it were law enforcement, they'd have had to been lucky in the killing and the planting of evidence on numerous occasions. That's even more true about the third-party being responsible for everything, as that person had less access to what was needed to plant the key, blood stains, and bullet. Excepting the possibility of it being a member of the family, however.

Personally, given what we know, I think it most likely that Avery did it, next-most-likely that it was a third-party and a single police officer planted evidence against a person they thought was guilty, and then a member or members of law enforcement being the murderer(s) very far down the list.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 4:40 PM on December 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


I don't think the police did it, and I'm giving 50-50 to Avery or a third party. It's just too hard to make a more informed decision right now. The Bustle has been running quite a few articles on this. Here's a good one that goes into the ex-bf theory a little more, as well as why a third party wasn't introduced in the trial:

That article also links to the third-party evidence (pdf) that the defense tried unsuccessfully to include, and names Barb Janda's then-boyfriend Scott Tadych as a suspect; as well as Steven's brothers Chuck and Earl, and Brendan's brother Bobby Dassey. Remember, Theresa Halbach had been at the property at least 15 times to photograph cars, and was well-known to pretty much everyone in the family, as far as I can tell.

The article also links to this longform article from 2006 (also linked in the MeFi FPP), where Steven himself suggests another possible suspect.

It's hard to believe that there wouldn't be any blood spatter evidence anywhere on anything in that room, without even going into DNA.

This is what I just can't get past. I mean, fine, if everyone wants to accept the theory that Steven was convicted on, but there's no way possible that they could have done what was claimed and then moved her body out to the burn pit and not left any DNA or blood anywhere. Even if they were the most meticulous cleaners ever and managed to clean every shred of evidence, it would have been noticeable that everything was scrubbed down. I mean, I feel like investigators can often tell when things have been cleaned in an attempt to hide evidence. Yet they did all this cleaning and somehow managed to....overlook the car key? I seem to vaguely remember at some point in the show that someone mentioned that the mattress (and anything else, I would assume) wasn't removed or tested for anything. I have to be missing something because the police were in there multiple times over multiple days and...they didn't do any kind of tests for blood spatters or bodily fluids or anything? Yet they're (I think) searching his house after they find her remains in the burn pit on November 9th? This seems nuts. Please tell me what I'm missing.
posted by triggerfinger at 6:04 PM on December 27, 2015


Forgot to link to this Q&A with Dean Strang published today. He struck me as a good attorney and a pretty smart guy. He also mentions that one of the filmmakers has a law degree, and the filmmakers clearly think Avery is innocent. So, the fact that they all presumably know everything there is to know about the case makes me think there's something there, but by failing to address certain things in the show, I think they have yet to make a strong case.

In other words, everyone who watches the show is likely to see a huge miscarriage of justice, yet Avery was still convicted by the jury. Putting aside all the ways juries are flawed, there has to be something there that convinced them that we're not seeing. All the stuff that we saw and are objecting to - the potential tampering with the blood, the license plate detail, I think even the lack of DNA on the key - the jury also saw all of that. Yet they still convicted and this makes me think that they saw convincing arguments by the prosecution that we didn't see - even if the filmmakers deem them irrelevant or inaccurate, it still feels like we're getting incomplete information.
posted by triggerfinger at 6:14 PM on December 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


More pointedly, if it was another member of the Avery family, they could be very well positioned to this.

Yeah, the two guys who supposedly passed each other on the highway - Brendan's brother and Scott (I think?) - but didn't agree on the time and/or were inconsistent in their statements, immediately raised my suspicions.

I really don't think it was the police because I just can't imagine the motive. Brendan's brother and the other guy seemed closer in age to Teresa, so maybe there was something going on with one of them? Or they wanted there to be?

Without the mishandling of the prior rape case, I would be more inclined to say that Occam's razor suggests that Avery did it. With that, and the subsequent lawsuit, there's one hell of an incentive to plant evidence.
posted by desjardins at 6:48 PM on December 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


Some reporting whining:

The link above to the local NBC story is merely a recap of the local Fox story (hey NBC, if it was worth having a story/linkbait about it, how about doing some... reporting?).

Anyway, going to the local Fox story (which the NBC affiliate used a link shortener service to link to - thanks again guys), more frustration is present.
Kratz says before the series' release, he wasn't provided the opportunity to answer any allegations made. Kratz says that's led to him receiving dozens of threatening and insulting messages.
What exactly did he say about not having an opportunity to answer allegations? There is no direct quote about that sentiment. It sort of matters because the makers gave a different impression (sort of):
"Making a Murderer" producers say Kratz was provided opportunities to speak with them. Despite more participation from the defense than prosecution, the producers say they tried to show all viewpoints.
But again, it's not an actual quote from the producers about them contacting them. So the Fox story has a case of one-side-said vs another-side-said without actually quoting either friggin side.

AAAAAARRRRG.

And they did quote both parties in question (Kratz and the documentary makers), but didn't include any direct quotes about the matter in which each side contradicted each other.

So, some disappointment; Fox did a crappy job reporting about this, and NBC just cribbed on Fox's story. I guess I should mention that NBC merely reprint an un-bylined story from the AP, and the AP story was a lazy rewrite of the Fox reporting. But that kind of means that NBC couldn't even be bothered to plagiarize* the work themselves, they paid someone else to do re-write someone else's sloppy reporting for them.

/rant
*Technically not plagiarism, but I would have learned more from the story if was plagiarism, instead of the reporting-on-the-reporting that they did.
posted by el io at 12:06 AM on December 28, 2015


I think people are giving the prosecution and the jury far too much credit by imagining that we just didn't see a strong case that was presented. The presumption of innocence seems to be largely a fiction; by the time someone is on trial, particularly in a case like this one, its the defense that fights an uphill battle despite the fact that it should be the other way around.

I don't think Avery did it; first of all it would be profoundly stupid even for someone of his limited capacity to do it while in the midst of a high-profile lawsuit with a multi-million dollar payoff on the line. There's also the taped call he had with his girlfriend on the day of the murder. I don't buy him having that call with blood on his hands.

I don't think the cops killed Halbach but I do think they planted evidence to try to secure a conviction. The key is the most obvious plant, but the blood in the SUV is also highly suspect, and the bullet in the garage makes no sense in the absence of any other evidence of a shooting in that location -- not to mention that the DNA testing on that bullet was corrupted by the technician.

The idea that the body was burned in the pit behind the house never made sense to me. Surely you would require a really intense fire and a long time to reduce a body to fragments, and surely it would create incriminating odors.

So, my guess is that someone else killed Halbach, burned her body in the quarry and then dumped the ashes in Avery's firepit. They then tipped off the cops to the SUV location. Lenk & co. subsequently decided to spice up the evidence when Brendan's "confession" proved to be totally inconsistent with the lack of evidence at the supposed crime scene.
posted by sevenyearlurk at 8:58 AM on December 28, 2015 [12 favorites]


The presumption of innocence seems to be largely a fiction

What's the saying? Oh yeah: "Reasonable doubt is for innocent people."
posted by meese at 9:23 AM on December 28, 2015 [8 favorites]


There's also the taped call he had with his girlfriend on the day of the murder. I don't buy him having that call with blood on his hands.

Right, I forgot about that. Weren't there two taped calls from her that afternoon? One around 4 and one maybe around 9? And they were pretty meandering, non-hurried conversations filled with the silly and kind of meaningless stuff that people who love and miss each other might say to one another. I think your theory of what happened is the most plausible. It's like when the judge was sentencing him at the end, he says something like how it was incomprehensible to him that Steven Avery, with so much public goodwill behind him at the time, who had a reasonably bright future, etc., etc., would go and throw it all away by raping and murdering someone, and I was thinking, EXACTLY. It IS incomprehensible! Which is why it requires a greater degree of skepticism!

Also, here's a copy of the brief.
posted by triggerfinger at 11:58 AM on December 28, 2015 [2 favorites]


"Lenk & co. subsequently decided to spice up the evidence when Brendan's 'confession' proved to be totally inconsistent with the lack of evidence at the supposed crime scene."

The key and blood stains were found during that first week of the investigation, while Brendon's confession was months later.

"I think people are giving the prosecution and the jury far too much credit by imagining that we just didn't see a strong case that was presented. The presumption of innocence seems to be largely a fiction; by the time someone is on trial, particularly in a case like this one, its the defense that fights an uphill battle despite the fact that it should be the other way around."

I split the difference on this. I am certain that there are things presented to the jury that we don't see in the documentary, because Avery's gun and the ballistics evidence about the bullet were completely omitted from the documentary. Likewise, we are not told in the documentary that Avery had asked that Halbach be the photographer, nor that he called her multiple times that day. That's just two things we know about. So we know that there is actual evidence presented at trial that the documentary omits. Beyond that, the documentary makes an implied case with stuff they brought up at trial and we never see any of the state's response to any of that. I think it's very implausible that the state didn't have an explanation for some of these things, no matter how weak, especially the lack of physical evidence that Halbach was in Avery's room (this would apply to Dassey's trial, not Avery's as in Avery's trial they didn't introduce Brendon's confession and didn't use his sequence of events as their theory of the murder -- so in Avery's trial, they wouldn't need to prove that Halbach was killed in the bedroom as Brendon confessed).

But even though I think that the documentary presents a distorted view of the prosecution's case, I totally believe that ultimately it comes down to the jury basically not needing anything more than what we were shown in the documentary to decide to convict Avery and Dassey. Because that's how juries are. And, anyway, even the stuff that's shown in the documentary is actually quite a bit more than juries often need to convict. A confession alone by a credible suspect is often all that's needed. And many people are convicted on purely circumstantial evidence that doesn't include having the murder victim's remains found outside their door. You're completely right: "reasonable doubt" is mostly a fiction in American justice, especially when the defendant isn't the "right" kind of person.

"Right, I forgot about that. Weren't there two taped calls from her that afternoon? One around 4 and one maybe around 9? And they were pretty meandering, non-hurried conversations filled with the silly and kind of meaningless stuff that people who love and miss each other might say to one another."

Yes, but I read that in one of those calls, he tells Jodi that Brendon is over there helping to clean the garage. I don't remember where I read this and so you should be skeptical about it; but given the other things left out of the documentary, I find it entirely believable that it's true and the documentarians decided to include Jodi mentioning the phone call but not anything incriminating that was discussed.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 2:27 PM on December 28, 2015


"What's the saying? Oh yeah: 'Reasonable doubt is for innocent people.'"

That was Kratz, right? Yeah, again, fuck that guy.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 2:28 PM on December 28, 2015 [4 favorites]


especially the lack of physical evidence that Halbach was in Avery's room (this would apply to Dassey's trial, not Avery's as in Avery's trial they didn't introduce Brendon's confession and didn't use his sequence of events as their theory of the murder -- so in Avery's trial, they wouldn't need to prove that Halbach was killed in the bedroom as Brendon confessed).

Thanks for clarifying this. It's been bothering me. I'm now getting confused as to what I've learned from the show and I've learned about from reading. Like, I thought I didn't remember anything being said about his multiple calls to her, but I keep thinking it must have been at a point when I looked at my phone or something. Glad to know it's not just me missing stuff.

I'm know they played the tape of at least one of the calls from Jodi in the documentary (i.e. she didn't just refer to them). And if I'm remembering correctly that there were two calls, then they played them both. Not to say they didn't cut parts out for length, but they definitely played the calls. I'm sitting at home tonight because we're due a bad snowstorm, so I'll rewatch that episode to clarify.
posted by triggerfinger at 3:43 PM on December 28, 2015


Did the prosecution ever offer a motive for Avery (or Brendan)? It doesn't seem likely that Teresa felt she was in danger if she'd been to the salvage yard 15 times. Avery did some bad stuff when he was 19, granted, but not to this degree, and I don't recall hearing that he got in any trouble in prison. Brendan was 16 and didn't seem to raise any flags with people he knew.
posted by desjardins at 4:49 PM on December 28, 2015


Anonymous to release new documents for the Avery Case

"The tweets — see below — show Manitowoc County Sheriff's Department's Sgt. Andrew Colborn during the trial and claim that the group will release documents on Tuesday, including an alleged evidence list and telephone records between Colborn and Sheriff's Department Lt. James Lenk."

Unless their emails mention some evidence that either makes it unlikely Avery would have committed the murder or points to another possible suspect, I don't think it will be that big of a deal.
posted by FJT at 11:08 AM on December 29, 2015


So right after we finished episode four, I said something to my husband about how I would have thought this story was ridiculously far-fetched if it were fiction, and he said, "HUH?" and then I also said "HUH?" and it eventually came out that he had thought, up until then, that it was just well done verite style fiction.

Unlike some of you people, I can't really form a cohesive narrative or remember all the facts in any kind of order right now, and I don't even remember everyone's names or sometimes who said what, but I do have a few things that have stuck with me.

Both Brendan and Steven reportedly have IQs around 70. Obviously, Steven is older and more experienced, and subsequently not as gullible as Brendan based on his earlier experiences, but he's also not likely a criminal mastermind, either. There's a point during one of Brendan's phone calls with his mom, where he asks her what 'inconsistent' means and she says she doesn't know, which really gave me the impression that the family overall is not well equipped to defend their own interests against the police and prosecutors.

And in terms of cleverness, the state's theory of the crime is pretty much all over the place. It's just this implausible series of really stupid and really smart decisions, where Avery is likely plotting this murder ahead of time, despite his precarious position and his ongoing dispute with the state, then following through and committing it, leaving a trail of obvious evidence including making an appointment with the victim, murdering and disposing of the body right on his property, and blithely bringing in his teenaged nephew to help, and then thoroughly cleaning the crime scene and replacing everything so it wouldn't look like it had been disturbed.

I have no idea what happened, and it was pretty evident throughout that the filmmakers were presenting the story with their own conclusion in mind. Especially when they'd just sort of refer to something that seemed exculpatory, but then didn't really delve into it specifically, I got the impression that they were glossing over some of the prosecution's arguments. BUT there was enough solid evidence of malfeasance from the police and prosecutors, and enough conflict of interest, that I am convinced that they didn't prove the case sufficiently. (And, I'll add, probably never will be able to, since they destroyed or tainted so much evidence in the course of the investigation.) There were several people I wanted to see fired and/or disbarred, retroactively and into outer space. (Dassey's original defense attorney, that guy who looks like Joe Lieberman, should never have been licensed to practice law.)

And while I don't think they would have actually staged the crime in order to frame Avery, they seemed to have no problem at all roping in Dassey when he stood in the way of the framing, so I'm not going to completely discount the possibility that maybe someone did. I think at least a couple of people willfully and intentionally took advantage of Dassey for the sole purpose of getting to Avery, for the sole purpose of proving to themselves and to others that they had reason to go after Avery in the first case. And if they would intentionally put an innocent child in prison to further their selfish goals, then I will entertain the notion that they might also murder an innocent woman. Again, I don't actually think this is a likely scenario, but they are corrupt enough that I'm also not going to completely dismiss it as a possibility.

One overarching theme that kept popping up for me throughout is that people really don't like ambiguity, and they don't like to admit when they don't know something. This struck me a lot during Serial as well, when people were fretting about the possibility that the story would not be tied up neatly at the end, and the conclusion presented to them, like they think that reality is like a formulaic cop show. People hate being unsure, and juries are people. Without a very compelling alternate theory, ideally with a named perpetrator, a lot of people will gravitate to the closest thing they can get to a comprehensive explanation, which means they're likely to cobble together a narrative in which Avery or Dassey are guilty.

Also: Oh, man, Avery's mom. That poor woman struck me throughout as having been swallowed pretty much whole by depression via learned helplessness. She's a casualty too.
posted by ernielundquist at 3:55 PM on December 29, 2015 [14 favorites]


"Thanks for clarifying this."

I almost posted a third consecutive comment just underscoring that Kratz presented two very different theories in the two trials. Most of the audience has a lot of trouble with the lack of physical evidence that the murder took place in Avery's bedroom the way that Dassey describes, but I think that perhaps people are forgetting that Kratz didn't present this theory of the murder in Avery's trial. They left Dassey out of Avery's trial and worked with the key, blood stains, her remains, and so on. Not all the stuff that Brendon described.

So for Avery's trial, they didn't have to reconcile the lack of physical evidence with what Brendon described. And for Brendon's trial, they had his confession, which juries take very, very seriously.

This is, by the way, one of two aspects of criminal justice (in the US, but also elsewhere) that bothers me so much because I feel like it's only about two steps improved upon the "throw the witch in the water and see if she drowns" level of judicial development. The other thing is witness testimony. There's huge, enormous, mountains of empirical evidence that eyewitness testimony is unreliable in absolute terms and is even unreliable in relative terms (which is to say, it's less reliable than all sorts of other evidence that we generally think of as not very reliable). There's similarly huge, enormous, mountains of evidence that innocent people will confess to crimes they didn't commit, especially when interrogated by authorities who are certain they're guilty. And yet eyewitness testimony and confessions are considered -- both by the relevant institutions and by juries -- to be utterly reliable, basically among the most reliable evidence that you'll ever get and either is sufficient for conviction.

When you combine this with the vast array of ways in which the system is very strongly biased against the non-white and the poor, you get a recipe for gross injustice on a vast scale -- an injustice that everyone ignores because people are certain that most crimes are committed by those other kind of people and that browbeaten suspects who confess and eyewitness testimony that confirms everyone's biased expectations are proof that the system is working. We have confessions and eyewitness testimony that the unsavory type committed the crime. What more do we need?

"I'm know they played the tape of at least one of the calls from Jodi in the documentary (i.e. she didn't just refer to them). And if I'm remembering correctly that there were two calls, then they played them both."

Have you re-watched it yet? What I recall is that they played only very short snippets of the call. I only remember one, but maybe they played a portion of the other. But what I recall is that they played no more than ten seconds or so of what Jodi described as much longer conversations (minutes, at least). Maybe when he answered, he was out of breath or sounded weird, but later -- the part they played -- he sounded calm and relaxed. We don't know.

I really think that it's sort of ironic that the audience responds to so much of the prosecution's case with skepticism, but that I've seen so few examples of the audience being similarly skeptical about the filmmakers and with regard to drawing conclusions from what we're shown. We're basically walked through a narrative, with the filmmakers choosing what to include and what to exclude in a leading fashion. We're led to interpret those phone calls in a way that's favorable to Avery, but I can easily see a presentation of those phone calls that is just as convincing in the other direction.

"Did the prosecution ever offer a motive for Avery (or Brendan)? It doesn't seem likely that Teresa felt she was in danger if she'd been to the salvage yard 15 times."

I read -- I don't recall where -- that Halback mentioned to her editor a couple of things that concerned her about going to Averys. One, that one time he answered the door in a towel. I don't remember the other concern she mentioned.

That doesn't prove anything, but neither does her going to the Avery place fifteen times prove that she didn't feel threatened, either. This was her job. Women tolerate feeling unsafe all the time because they think they don't have a choice and it's expected of them to do their job and ignore it.

And the arguments about motive and about how it would be very stupid of him to commit this crime, or be smart about some things and dumb about others, don't carry much weight with me. Violent criminals tend to be impulsive, and so often their motives are unclear and unexpected, even to themselves. And there's often a lot of inconsistency, not just because the impulsiveness can interfere with what otherwise might be careful planning, but also because circumstances in real life are much more complicated than they are in our popular fictional narratives about crimes, particularly murder. On the one hand, people can be killed in broad daylight when you'd expect there to be numerous witnesses; and on the other hand, simple unexpected coincidence can make something that should be simple and easy into something difficult and complicated. All the things that the defense was saying about the crusher and the smelter, for example, can be explained simply by someone else being in the way when Avery needed access to those things. He could have carefully been wearing gloves while he was in the SUV, but cut himself while he was struggling to move Halbach's body and not noticed that he had. Real life is more inconsistant complicated than our popular narratives and people's expectations that crimes are like television is part of the problem.

I don't really know that Avery is or isn't an opportunistic rapist/murderer. We really don't know much about him and he's been in prison most of his adult life, so he's not really had an opportunity to accumulate a criminal record with regard to women. But his violent attack on his cousin and her allegations count for something.

"Brendan was 16 and didn't seem to raise any flags with people he knew."

From what we're shown in the show, no, there's absolutely nothing that would ever indicate that Brendon would do something like this. But the prosecution's case in this case is implicitly pretty close to the defense's -- that he's young, borderline mentally handicapped, and very prone to suggestion by anyone he perceives as an authority figure. For the defense, the influence is the police. For the prosecution, the influence is Avery.

"Both Brendan and Steven reportedly have IQs around 70. Obviously, Steven is older and more experienced, and subsequently not as gullible as Brendan based on his earlier experiences, but he's also not likely a criminal mastermind, either."

That's another thing that I think the audience should be careful about. The 70 IQ figure for Avery is mentioned once in the documentary and was something from when he was quite young (grade-school, IIRC). There's a lot more shown in the documentary establishing Dassey's mental capacity, not the least that he was actually in some special ed classes at the age of 16. But, also, my own personal, totally not qualified, and just-from-television evaluation of Avery and Dassey is that Avery's IQ -- given whatever that actually means -- is higher than what I've seen of people with an IQ of 70. He's verbally much more adept than Dassey, for example. I think that Avery is just moderately below average, while Dassey is substantially below average and right there on the borderline.

I'd argue that we should weigh our own audience reaction to Avery and Dassey more highly than the supposed 70 IQ figure for each of them. IQ testing, especially for children, is very sensitive to socioeconomic conditions that relate to general knowledge and just how well kids know how to test well. Everything we see about Avery and Dassey indicates that the deck is going to be stacked against them in an IQ test.

I'm pretty uncomfortable with any arguments that Avery is too dumb to able to sufficiently clean the crime scene or plan the murder, or whatever. Too much of that evaluation is necessarily wrapped up in our own biases as (most of us in the audience) precisely the kind of people that the Averys are not. In fact, that's an aspect of the documentary that we've not discussed but which bothered me -- I feel like there's whole lot of implicit othering in the way that the filmmakers approached and presented their subjects. They may have been very sympathetic, but I feel that there's condescension in it, regardless.

"One overarching theme that kept popping up for me throughout is that people really don't like ambiguity, and they don't like to admit when they don't know something."

Truer words have never been spoken. You can see this in the audience reactions to the show. There's an amazing amount of certainty. Much less so here, but even so. And law enforcement and the DA's office -- they are in the business of creating certainty. That's my own impression, even though I feel certain that LE and prosecutorial folk will argue otherwise. But the systemic pressures are all aligned toward creating a false sense of certainty. And your average person really hates uncertainty and that's how juries go. Individually and collectively, they talk themselves into certainty.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 8:04 PM on December 29, 2015 [4 favorites]


I have rewatched the episode with the calls and they do play snippets from both calls. The first was around 5:30 and the second was right before 9. There were only short parts played but both were about 15 minutes. In both of them Avery (to me) sounded pretty normal and I thought that both the first and second time I watched.

With regard to the prosecution's theories - in Avery's trial they didn't present the theory that she was killed in the bedroom (they presented a different theory), but in Brendan's trial the said she was killed in the bedroom. Same prosecutor in both trials, obviously. In Dean Stang's interview on a local channel from the other day, he did address that and said there is precedence for it in the courts. He gave an example of a fatal shooting where there are two suspects. If the state wants to pursue the death penalty for both of them, in one suspect's trial they say he shot the fatal bullet and in the other suspect's trial they'll say he was the shooter. Stang said courts have generally tolerated that inconsistency.

I'd argue that we should weigh our own audience reaction to Avery and Dassey more highly than the supposed 70 IQ figure for each of them

I agree, but I think I would stick with the assumption that Brendan is not a bright person. It seems pretty clear that he just doesn't understand most of what's going on. I also think that it's easy for us to assume a level of intelligence that people just don't have. Brendan's mother not knowing what "inconsistent" meant is a good example of that. I'd put her at roughly the same intelligence level as Steven Avery (which is maybe a low average to below average - I think their potential may have been higher than their actual education level, meaning I think they would have seemed more intelligent had they had a good education. I am not certain of that in Brendan's case); even at a low average intelligence level, I would have assumed that people would generally understand what "inconsistent statements" means.

While I think that we shouldn't underestimate Steven's intelligence, I don't think we should overestimate it either. I think something like wearing gloves is high-level enough to safely assume that it wouldn't have been an impulsive killing, but even if it were, I don't think he would have both had the insight to wear gloves but then be sloppy enough to miss other obvious things.

I also think the filmmakers left out stuff they should have addressed and that does make me more suspicious of them, but weighing their thinking and motivations (and they say they went into it with no preconceived notions) with the only opposing view (the police department and prosecutors, who are corrupt as fuck), I am more prone to come down on the side of the filmmakers and the defense attorneys (both of whom, as far as I can tell, have never really had any other ethical issues, in direct contrast to Kratz, Kapinsky and god knows who else on that side).

One final thing as I'm watching is the utter theatrics that the prosecution is putting on is unbearable. In the opening arguments, Ken Kratz refers to Halbach as a "little girl....excuse me, I mean young woman" in a way that was so obvious that it seemed straight out of Crime Thriller 101 and I was thinking what the fuck is this, surely the jury won't fall for that. But then we had O'Kelley, who needed to stop talking to compose himself from the tears at seeing the ribbon picture not once but twice; and then we have the lawyer in Brendan's trial who was just over the top in his indignation and disbelief at Brendan saying he made up the details of his confession, as if regular people don't see, hear, or read these kinds of details of murders in books, TV shows and movies all the time. I know that lawyers will often put on a show but this just seemed so transparent that I would sure the jury would see right through it. Apparently they didn't.
posted by triggerfinger at 8:54 PM on December 29, 2015 [10 favorites]


In the opening arguments, Ken Kratz refers to Halbach as a "little girl....excuse me, I mean young woman"

Yeah, I already disliked him, and this infantilizing the victim was gross. Especially when taken in light of the icky setting scandal he was involved in. I don't think women were people in his mind.

I am concerned like many hear of the view point put forward by the filmmakers. Episode one, I could see they had an agenda- and I was happy to see where it took me. I remarked to my husband how they used Lenk's swearing in as a suggestion he would do nothing but lie. We've all seen the shows! Of course if we are directed to their virtues in one scene, the next they will do something that goes against those virtues!

Dassey was strictly to influence the public and the jury. It didn't matter that he get convicted or they use his statements in court. I get the strong sense that Kratz wanted the gruesome details because it not only poisons the well, it drove of any possible remaining supporters of Steven Avery.

Which, in a way, is why coming back to not knowing how I feel about the filmmakers choice to highlight the case in a way that is obviously pro Avery. Is it fair play, considering it went the other direction for so long? The state was definitely in the propaganda business on this one. Are we in the age where propaganda is fought with propaganda?

One final thought. I guess I'm swayed to believing Avery probably did not do it. There was enough doubt cast. Now, I could read more and find out, as mentioned here, the prosecutors had clear, logical responses. But I suspect not, it sounds like it was all a farce, even reading some of the linked articles.

I wonder if Avery didn't get convinced in part due to our belief in the brutal, stranger rape myth. Of course they happen; Avery's first false imprisonment ended up being from one of those rapes. But they are rare. And the public- including jurors would rather believe a poor scrapper who barely know the victim was more likely to kidnap, torture, rape and then kill a young woman because it's easier to swallow than a more mundane but disturbing truth, that people close to you are more likely to be your murderer than a mostly strange man and that there won't be anything far fetched about it. -bad the horrible stranger rapes, like the Gregory Allen rape, while awful, don't include flights of fancy like Dassey's description and the state's description of the murder to the public.

Which really leads me back to the boyfriend with some opportunistic shitty cops who either held a grudge, or more likely, ended up planting evidence to bolster their case.

At the end of the day though, I don't know. All I have is a feeling, and it's largely made by what the filmmakers wanted me to see. With that said, I think it's Steven Avery's maintaining his own innocence that pushes me into feeling that way. I know a lot of criminals maintain their innocence, but he has absolutely convinced some way, some how, he will be exonerated again. When he spoke about trying to learn the law himself because he was going to figure it out, I heard my own words coming out of his mouth. The absolute certitude that you are right and if the system is broken, fuck it, you're going to roll up your sleeves and figure it out yourself. Someway. Some how.

But then I agree with what Attorney Dean Stang said; I hope he is guilty, because otherwise the injustice here is horrible to think about.


(Actually that's not true. I do hope he's innocent and it caused is to look really fucking hard at our judicial system and start destroying the current barriers to a fair trial, and that everyone who renounced him can feel 10 shades of shitty. And maybe, just maybe he can bankrupt Wisconsin for letting him down every step of the way. )

posted by [insert clever name here] at 10:10 PM on December 29, 2015 [2 favorites]


And Dassey's should get a mistrial, no questions asked. If his mother really wanted to be there- if his lawyer was working for the prosecution he clearly was. But if there is a guy on your team that wants to prune your families genetic tree so it stops there? That all is some seriously fucked up shit and I can't see how it's a fair trial by any metric.
posted by [insert clever name here] at 10:14 PM on December 29, 2015 [5 favorites]


OH! Ivan Fyodorovich, you just reminded me of one other main thing that bugged me, about how Steven Avery's jury's initial poll had seven people voting not guilty, and how horrified the excused juror seemed to be about the whole thing. Something happened in those deliberations to convince seven people to change their verdicts to guilty. Not necessarily anything out of line, but people can often be swayed by a forceful and confident enough argument.

So I just looked up some info on the jury, and check this out. Maybe it's just a small town thing or something where they really couldn't find 12 people who weren't connected in some way, but one of the jurors had a son who worked for the Manitowoc County Sheriff's Department, which strikes me as a very serious conflict of interest.

And I really didn't mean to say that I think Avery is stupid. I thought he was actually really smart in some ways, but in the same sense that IQ measures your ability to do well in school, I suspect it also measures your ability to do well in the legal system, and I don't think any of that family was really equipped to defend themselves in that situation. And the key is the most confusing thing. I can't imagine him managing to fully clean that room of all evidence of a bloody crime, then also wash the key of her DNA, and then, after all that, get his DNA on it and put it back in the room. It's not impossible, I guess, that the same person did all of those different things, but it's unlikely enough that I can't really accept that version of events.

Ultimately, I don't know what happened, but I think that there were enough suspicious factors and enough evidence that the investigation was biased and that some evidence was planted that I wouldn't be confident in any of the evidence presented. I think it's entirely possible he did it, but I also think that one or more people planted evidence that taints the entire investigation.

This is the scariest thing about it, though: This case got a lot of attention because of all the twists and turns. The whole thing is a very strange confluence of events, with a lot of inherent drama that is going to be compelling to a lot of people. But how many boring cases are there out there where the same kind of thing is going on and nobody is paying attention?

(This is a tangential personal anecdote, but it is kind of related: I was on a jury once, on a case where the police were trying to railroad some guy they'd beaten. There was video of the event that showed what happened, but all the same, multiple cops got up on the stand and straight up lied about it. There was one in particular who was glaring at us and just sort of barking out this alternate version, like if she just said it in a sufficiently authoritative tone, we'd believe her instead of our own eyes. I knew that sort of thing happened and all, but what really struck me was just how casual and how sloppy they were about it, like they did it all the time and got away with it.)
posted by ernielundquist at 10:26 AM on December 30, 2015 [5 favorites]


but one of the jurors had a son who worked for the Manitowoc County Sheriff's Department, which strikes me as a very serious conflict of interest.

Not only that, but one of the jurors was the huband of a woman who worked in the Manitowoc County clerk of courts office. What??

Also, for some reason Ken Kratz has responded to a redditor's email with details of what he says was left out of the documentary. Part 1, part 2.
posted by triggerfinger at 11:16 AM on December 30, 2015 [8 favorites]


Also, Damien Echols has been tweeting about this.
posted by triggerfinger at 11:27 AM on December 30, 2015


Oh man. This is like a rollercoaster ride. I mean, a small rollercoaster ride for tots, but one nonetheless. After the documentary I thought it was probable that Avery didn't do it and at least there should be a new trial. After reading the good comments by everyone here, I wasn't sure if he did it. And now with the emails, I'm only certain that I have no business deciding on the guilt or innocence of another human being and have no wish on sitting on a jury ever.
posted by FJT at 11:28 AM on December 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


In the reddit thread, people are addressing each of the points in the email and this person puts out some reasonable counter-arguments. Also, this is an obvious CONSIDER THE SOURCE scenario.
posted by triggerfinger at 11:58 AM on December 30, 2015 [2 favorites]


The filmmakers have been interviewed by Buzzfeed: 12 Burning Questions About “Making A Murderer” Answered
posted by triggerfinger at 12:38 PM on December 30, 2015 [2 favorites]


Most of this article repeats things we've already discussed, but the second paragraph of this is new (to me):
According to an Appleton Post Crescent article from March 9, 2006, "While he was in prison, Steven Avery planned the torture and killing of a young woman, new documents released Wednesday indicate. The allegations are included in 22 pages of court documents accompanying additional charges filed by Calumet County Dist. Atty. Ken Kratz. ... Kratz also included in Wednesday's filings statements from prisoners who served time with Avery at Green Bay Correctional Institution. They said Avery talked about and showed them diagrams of a torture chamber he planned to build when he was released."

Furthermore, reported the newspaper, "The filings also include statements from a woman, now 41, who said she was raped by Avery, who told her 'if she yelled or screamed there was going to be trouble.' There also is an affidavit from a girl who said she was raped by Avery. 'The victim's mother indicated that the victim does not want to speak about the sexual assault between her and Steven Avery because Steven Avery told her if she 'told anyone about their activities together he would kill her family,'" the filing said. According to the newspaper article, "The affidavit said Avery admitted to his fiancee that he had sexually assaulted the girl."
posted by desjardins at 4:14 PM on December 30, 2015 [2 favorites]


If all that is true--if Avery is a terrible rapist and if he did really kill Halbach--then the police framing him is still terrible, because it means that the correct functioning of our legal system will leave us with a rapist and murderer released from prison.

I find a lot of analysis about the show maddening, because so many people act as if, if Avery is guilty, then the police's actions don't matter. But they still do; framing a guilty person can lead to horrible consequences, just like framing an innocent person.
posted by meese at 4:26 PM on December 30, 2015 [15 favorites]


This Brendan testimony in ep9 is excruciating.
posted by rhizome at 3:15 AM on December 31, 2015 [2 favorites]




If all that is true--if Avery is a terrible rapist and if he did really kill Halbach--then the police framing him is still terrible

This comment -- like so many others here and elsewhere on the internet -- goes beyond mere assumption and jumps straight to a declaration that law enforcement obviously framed Avery. But that is not at all certain. It's possible, and maybe even likely, but it's also possible that the key was lodged in a book and did not fall until the bookcase was shaken; that the blood in the Rav4 was Avery's, bleeding out from underneath his glove; that the bullet in the garage was a bullet fired upon and into TH; that the phone call to the dispatcher was because Colburn got a number of license plates in his ledger mixed up, and was calling in for clarification; that the puncture in the blood vial was the result of exposure to air that widened the already-present hole from the initial collection.

Many folks have assumed a plot on the part of the sheriff's department when in reality many of the suspicious situations in the case could be easily explained as the result of incredibly shitty police work. Again, I'm not saying it's one way or the other -- I *am* saying that anyone who thinks that they know for a fact that Avery was framed by law enforcement suffers from the same lack of humility that we (rightly) criticize in the media and jury.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 3:00 PM on January 3, 2016


All that said, the confessions of Brendan Dassey are unequivocally outrageous. There's no ambiguity there -- they clearly violate good practices and it seems like they should be ruled inadmissible in court. But even then (!!) there are hours and hours of his confessions that we have not seen that might likely alter public perception of his culpability. In fact, it's hard not to think that we saw the most rage-inducing snippets of his confessions, as they would have been the best to include in the documentary.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 3:07 PM on January 3, 2016 [2 favorites]


could be easily explained as the result of incredibly shitty police work. Again, I'm not saying it's one way or the other

And I think that in and of itself is reason for Avery not to be convicted. If the government is going to take your freedom for the rest of your life and lock you in a box, they need to do their jobs correctly and have respect for the processes and procedures that should work to keep innocent people out of jail.
posted by LizBoBiz at 3:31 PM on January 3, 2016 [4 favorites]


And I think that in and of itself is reason for Avery not to be convicted.

Is it? I mean, image that Avery did actually kill TH and law enforcement did not frame him--are you really suggesting that he should be set free because they didn't find the key on the first through third search of the house, but found it the fourth time through? I think that the idea of "even though he might have done it, he should still be set free" only works if the police did frame him. Just because it looks like they might have framed him, or had the opportunity to frame him -- that's a pretty low bar, and I can't imagine a criminal defense attorney ever losing a case if that were to be set as precedent.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 3:53 PM on January 3, 2016 [1 favorite]


I guess it's a matter of opinion but yeah o think shoddy police work leads to reasonable doubt for me. If they can't do their job right how do I know they did the investigation right?
posted by LizBoBiz at 4:44 PM on January 3, 2016 [6 favorites]


I think that the idea of "even though he might have done it, he should still be set free" only works if the police did frame him.

"He might have done it" includes "he might not have done it," which in itself is a pretty short definition of reasonable doubt, which is the standard the legal system is supposed to follow for these charges. Certainty doesn't allow for "might" and "maybe."
posted by rhizome at 5:31 PM on January 3, 2016 [9 favorites]


Thank you. In describing the arguments of others, I was sloppy, and should have said "I think that the idea of 'even if it's true he did it, or we believe he did it beyond a reasonable doubt, he should still be set free' only works if the police did frame him."
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 5:37 PM on January 3, 2016


I just can't get past the way the prosecution runs its case through the media. How anyone gets a fair trial in the US, if that is standard practice, is beyond me.
posted by robcorr at 11:14 PM on January 3, 2016 [2 favorites]


One of the many things that jumped out to me was the difference between the story told at Kratz's first post-Brendan news conference about the charges, and the facts ultimately prosecuted in court.
posted by rhizome at 11:27 PM on January 3, 2016 [3 favorites]




Update: According to the film makers, an unnamed juror has told them he/she thought Avery was innocent and framed by police but voted guilty because "they feared for their personal safety."
posted by ImproviseOrDie at 9:39 AM on January 6, 2016 [1 favorite]


DAMMIT.
posted by ImproviseOrDie at 9:39 AM on January 6, 2016 [1 favorite]


Before I even finished the series I was wondering who replaced the juror who had a family issue crop up. I'd have to rewatch, but my memory is that there was a hard turn toward a guilty verdict in the jury room then.
posted by rhizome at 12:12 PM on January 6, 2016




I follow a lot of true crime stories and justice system issues, so I found this case appalling but unsurprising. My husband watched it with me and was truly shocked by the sub-standard processes, with all the checks and balances ignored or avoided. And I see people spinning elaborate theories on Reddit, the natural home of conspiracy nuts. But this case is much grubbier and less dramatic than that, to me.

Like Buting said somewhere in the middle, people think they're safe from problems in the justice system because they have no intention of committing a crime. But all it takes for your life to be ruined is for someone to merely accuse you of a crime. Then it doesn't matter whether you did it or not, the system grinds you up and spits you out.

Which one of the many Black Lives Matter cases was it where there was video evidence of the cop planting a gun on the guy he'd just killed, cool as a cucumber like this was standard procedure? How much evidence do we already have that prosecutors have all the power compared to defence and judges? How many psychological bias studies which are relevant to how jury members will assess boring and confusing details? The FBI admitted recently how much of their "expert" forensics testimony is wishful thinking. How many threads have there been on the blue about how cops don't take stalking or domestic violence seriously?

It's so common for a woman to be killed by someone she knows and have her body dumped somewhere which is supposed to be remote - as far as I'm concerned you'd have to do a lot of work to persuade me it wasn't her ex or her roommate. After that, all it takes is a tiny bit of opportunism on the part of one or two cops who stand to be sued for more money than they have, and the justice system will form a protective shell around them because if it doesn't the whole structure would collapse. The prosecution doesn't care if the cops planted evidence or ignored leads, or if they are as morally pure as clean air and sunshine. The same way the cops don't care about contaminated samples as long as they get the answer they want, and the state department doesn't care if their DA sexually harasses everyone as long as he's popular with the public. They'll stick up for their own and its easier to do that if they don't look too closely at their colleagues in case they see something they can't ignore, or have the same scrutiny applied to them.

No great conspiracy is needed for Avery to be innocent of this crime (although I'm sure he's committed a bunch of other stuff). Just the usual systemic discrimination and human tendency to wilful blindness.
posted by harriet vane at 1:41 AM on January 7, 2016 [13 favorites]


All of that big picture dreariness aside though, Len Kachinsky is the smarmiest, douchiest narcissist ever to have slimed through a courtroom. Smugly giving a false-modest chuckle as the new defence lawyers asked him about how much time he spent talking to reporters versus talking to his client. "Oh yes, the media were all over me," without realising they would've been all over an incontinent skunk if it'd been Brendan Dassey's lawyer. The rest of them were just your garden-variety arrogant pricks but he thought he was going to make it big off of selling his client off to the cops.

Dean Strang and Jerry Buting are wonderful though. I hope they don't get burnt out on the Kachinsky's and Kratz's of their world. We need more lawyers willing to stand up for principles.
posted by harriet vane at 2:22 AM on January 7, 2016 [10 favorites]


One of the best articles so far: Beyond A Reasonable Doubt: Why Making A Murderer isn't a whodunnit by Devin Faraci.
The series is told from the point of view of Avery’s defense, who claim the man was framed for Halbach’s murder; the backlash comes as prosecutors have started a media campaign to point out evidence against Avery Making A Murderer omitted. Were we fooled by the show? Did the filmmakers present a slanted version of the case? Is Steven Avery actually a killer?

Here’s the truth: none of that matters, because Making A Murderer isn’t a whodunnit (and more than that, documentaries do not - and perhaps should not - have to be objective). It’s a procedural that shows how someone - whether they are guilty or innocent - can be railroaded by a system with insufficient and malfunctioning checks and balances. The show doesn’t focus on who killed Teresa Halbach, it focuses on whether Steven Avery and Brendan Dassey got fair trials. And I can’t imagine how anyone thinks they did.
posted by harriet vane at 10:36 PM on January 7, 2016 [19 favorites]


All of that big picture dreariness aside though, Len Kachinsky is the smarmiest, douchiest narcissist ever to have slimed through a courtroom.

I was startled at how he looked in that later testimony. I think he might be having a hard time living with himself. He was just so weird that I almost think there is something very off about him. And am I wrong or did his investigator flat out and baldly state that Kachinsky directed him to obtain a confession? He seemed to think that this was something he could openly and without much insight say, 'Yeah, my job was to nail the kid and it didn't matter what he said and I did a real good job.'

His tears over the blue ribbon (which was what? a symbol?) were horrifying given the gravity and nature of the hearing. I feel terrible for the Halbach family.
posted by amanda at 9:20 AM on January 8, 2016 [3 favorites]


My understanding is that he was trying to get a confession for a potential plea bargain. The investigator is still the worst though.
posted by drezdn at 11:21 AM on January 8, 2016 [1 favorite]


Which one of the many Black Lives Matter cases was it where there was video evidence of the cop planting a gun on the guy he'd just killed, cool as a cucumber like this was standard procedure?

I think you're thinking of Walter Scott, but I don't know that we know it was a drop gun.
posted by rhizome at 12:02 PM on January 8, 2016


New attorneys for Avery.
posted by drezdn at 5:38 PM on January 8, 2016


Put me down in the "reasonable doubt" column.

My best guess is that one of the Averys, or someone connected to the Averys, killed Halbach. Possibly Steven. But from the doc or the evidence I've read online, it seems like the evidence that directly connected Steven (as opposed to anyone else living on the compound) to the murder was the key in his bedroom and his DNA on her car. And Avery's defense attorneys made a pretty good case for how the police could have tampered with evidence to juice up the case against Steven, specifically. So, doubt.

Brendan's prosecution was a travesty, full stop.
posted by donajo at 7:01 PM on January 8, 2016


I was curious what role IP was playing here, they were sprinkled across the last couple of episodes but without a ton of narrative.
posted by rhizome at 8:16 PM on January 8, 2016


StrangCore

I'm sorry I just couldn't resist
posted by triggerfinger at 9:25 PM on January 8, 2016 [4 favorites]


"I was startled at how he looked in that later testimony. I think he might be having a hard time living with himself. He was just so weird that I almost think there is something very off about him."

My evaluation of him is different from other people here. I didn't see him as narcissistic and slimy, I saw him as badly unqualified and unprepared to take on such a high-profile case. Because he was unqualified and unprepared, he was extremely undisciplined about how he evaluated the case and decided on a strategy ... and he never re-evaluated or changed his mind. He took at face value some of the stuff he was hearing from law enforcement and his own local prejudices, and assumed that Stephen Avery and Brendon Dassey were probably guilty. His client was Dassey and his duty to his client is to get the best possible outcome, which very often in this sort of crime involves a plea deal and testimony against another defendant.

Maybe what people are forgetting is that (for reasons I can't recall) an experienced public defender wasn't available to take Dassey's case and the court contacted Kachinsky, who had recently run for some elected position and was well-known in the community, to act as Dassey's lawyer. I'm assuming -- perhaps wrongly -- that he had some experience working in criminal law, but I do know that this is how this stuff often works. There are lawyers who work full-time as public defenders, but the bar also has a pool of people they can tap for this role. It's considered part of service.

So I think that Kachinsky was just incredibly unqualified and unprepared to take a case like this. His biggest moral and ethical failing was in not realizing that he wasn't competent for this job and that had profound consequences. Since he wrongly thought he was competent, he trusted his own judgment about assuming that Dassey was guilty and working for a plea deal. He trusted his judgment about the investigator he hired, who even more than he did had the bias that Dassey was guilty and who had connections with the victim. His judgment was absolutely terrible. He was in way, way over his head and he didn't realize it. As is so often the case when people are attempting to work beyond their competency.

Lawyers, including criminal defense lawyers, are people and high-profile cases for prosecutors and defenders can have a profound impact on a career. Anyone getting such a case would be excited about it and excited about being in the limelight -- I'm sure that every single one of the lawyers we saw were. But more experienced and better attorneys know how to disguise that while in public and how to keep their self-interest from overwhelming their duty to their client. Kachinsky wasn't equipped to do these things, he had no clue. And while I say that he "had no clue", I do think that, deep down, he did know he was in over his head. That perversely probably made him even more blinkered.

I don't see an evil, calculating man. I see someone who took on a responsibility that was beyond him who didn't have the courage to recognize this. Which is a more pedestrian sort of moral failure, but the kind of failure that causes, cumulatively, much more harm.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 3:41 AM on January 9, 2016 [8 favorites]


I dunno man, I don't think inexperience on Kachinsky's part explains Michael "Cell Tower Mike" O'Kelly's behavior. Kachinsky is/was a partner in a Criminal Defense practice!
posted by rhizome at 12:34 PM on January 9, 2016 [2 favorites]




How the Avery conspiracy theory completely falls apart.

Reddit discussion of same
posted by rhizome at 2:27 PM on January 9, 2016


From triggerfinger's link:

[The police] would have to do all of this while not getting a speck of their own DNA in the car. If Avery was not the killer, how was it that the real killer did not leave a speck of his own DNA in the car, if cops planted evidence on Avery?

Yeah, that bothers me. Wasn't anyone else's DNA found in the car? Although, if they found cops' DNA they'd probably just rule them out, if they'd been searching the car.

However, from the reddit thread:

how did colborn know what kind of vehicle teresa would drive 2 days before the vehicle was officially found?

Don't they pretty regularly release a description of the vehicle of a missing person? I mean, I'd assume the police can just search DMV records for her name. I can't remember why he was calling it in but it doesn't seem odd to me that he'd know the plate and make/model of the vehicle.
posted by desjardins at 3:18 PM on January 9, 2016


I think the big thing about that is the way Colborn acts after he's questioned about calling it in.

How the Avery conspiracy theory completely falls apart.

This is probably an Ad Hominem, but I really don't trust McBride as a reporter. She has a huge bias in reporting the case. Her husband was the DA for Waukesha County. She also had a relationship with the Milwaukee Chief of Police.
posted by drezdn at 4:06 PM on January 9, 2016


I see Reddit has the same McBride info, but translated through a game of telephone. She also used to be a right wing radio show host in Milwaukee.
posted by drezdn at 5:45 PM on January 9, 2016


Was there any of Teresa's DNA in the car? Or was it cleaned at some point?
posted by harriet vane at 8:34 PM on January 9, 2016


And yep, Walter Scott being shot in the back by Michael Slager is the case I was thinking of. The object planted may have been a taser, not a gun.
posted by harriet vane at 8:39 PM on January 9, 2016


My assessment of Kachinsky is probably compatible with yours, Ivan. I don't think he's evil or calculating, but arrogant and unwilling to admit to his mistakes. And as you say there's likely a Dunning-Kruger situation here as well.
posted by harriet vane at 8:41 PM on January 9, 2016


She also used to be a right wing radio show host in Milwaukee.

Oh, well, goodbye to any credibility I may have given her.
posted by desjardins at 8:59 PM on January 9, 2016 [1 favorite]


I don't think he's evil or calculating, but arrogant and unwilling to admit to his mistakes

Still a violation of the rules of ethical conduct -- and thus a thing that one can knowingly be disbarred over -- so not really an excuse.

I have a lot of feelings about this series in general, but my overwhelming one is that I wish they had showed more of Brendan Dassey's 9 day trial. Regardless, though, shame on the prosecution for bringing that case in the first place, especially in light of their decision not to use Dassey as a witness in the Avery trial, and to drop the sexual counts against Avery. Prosecutors, more than most civilians, are familiar with coerced confessions, and the state attorneys who handled this case behaved extremely unethically in pursuing it. My fingers are crossed for his habeas appeals.

Finally, at the risk of a derail, I will just briefly note how much more critically metafilter commenters seem to be handling this case than the Adnan Syed case in Serial (based on comments in the fanfare thread, as well as threads on the blue), which puzzles me, because it seems to me, as a criminal defense attorney, that the case against Steven Avery was stronger than that against Syed. I can't help but wonder if it is an issue of narrative structure (very pro Avery in this case vs. neutral-ish in Serial) or whether it is merely an issue of race of the accused.
posted by likeatoaster at 10:19 PM on January 9, 2016 [2 favorites]


Honestly I am starting to think Steven did it, because it just seems like too much work for any other suspect.

How did the RAV4 get where it was found? Whoever put it there would have had some familiarity with the compound, access, and somewhere nearby to go. They park the RAV4, then walk ... to where, how do they get home? It's hard to imagine a killer from Theresa's life, working alone, doing this. It's difficult to imagine a stalker having an accomplice.

It also seems like a lot of work for a cop to do. I believe the cops planted the key and bullet because that seems like cop level effort and motive: sewing up someone they think is guilty with evidence that can easily be carried onto the crime scene, dropped, then 'found'. Neat, tidy pieces of evidence that exactly check off something the prosecution wants. Something of Theresa's in Steven's bedroom. A murder weapon on Steven's property.

But finding the car elsewhere, and moving it to the Avery compound, that seems very risky for a cop. And if they didn't plant it, then after it is found they have to remember they have access to a vial of Steven's blood, then go and get some of it and plant it in the vehicle pretty quickly. It seems like too much too fast. Maybe that would explain how they left the blood vial looking obviously tampered with, because they didn't have enough time to do better, but I'm not quite convinced.

I was pretty suspicious of the Tadych guy before they even introduced him, mostly because the behavior of Barb and Brendan set off my mental alarms that the man of their house was a violent asshole. Like their failings were shouted at them in detail for many years. The movements of him and the older Dassey stepson seemed odd. And there's the matter of Steven's brother(s?) who are barely shown at all. All in all it doesn't seem like a happy loving extended family, and I imagine it created a lot of resentment and tension when Steven returned home after so long gone, a local hero and favorite son, with financial windfalls expected in the near future. But how does Steven's blood get in the car? That seems impossible for a family member to fake.

I can see a jury going into deliberations thinking the prosecution's case was garbage, but the more they thought about it, running out of reasonable doubts that Steven Avery was guilty.
posted by nom de poop at 12:40 PM on January 10, 2016


To me, one of the most damning pieces of evidence is the fact that Avery called her phone at 4:30, and didn't use *67 (even though he used *67 on the first two phone calls earlier in the day). I can think of a few reasons why a guy who just killed someone would want to call the dead person's phone (to set an alibi; to find the phone after a struggle), and only one explanation for why he'd call it otherwise (butt dial). But he wasn't calling from a cell phone, was he?
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 5:18 PM on January 10, 2016


It seems like there's a pile of reasons someone would call someone else who just did a job. Did the pictures get taken, did they need to leave the car out again tomorrow, did the big crack in the window show up, did they get a picture of the decorative bowl on the dashboard, could they wait a week to deposit the check, they changed their mind could they cancel the ad.
posted by nom de poop at 6:48 PM on January 10, 2016


It's unfortunate the documentary didn't tell us what Avery's explanation was.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 8:22 PM on January 10, 2016


Did the pictures get taken

Oh wait, are you suggesting that he never saw her? That she took the pictures then left? I thought it was agreed that he watched her take the pictures and gave her a check or something like that.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 8:35 PM on January 10, 2016


I remember that, but I thought it was confused by some later testimony? In any case, I mean there's a million more examples in the hat for reasons to call someone after they do a job. There's also, like, he meant to dial someone else but dialed her number by mistake.
posted by nom de poop at 4:30 AM on January 11, 2016




I thought it was agreed that he watched her take the pictures and gave her a check or something like that.

I don't think we know for sure just from watching the series. There are some gaps in the narrative regarding this sequence of events, the door-answering in a towel, all that.
posted by rhizome at 2:46 PM on January 11, 2016


I think coming after the year of Ferguson, it's not surprising that Making a Murderer would create less of a splash. Systemic failings of the criminal justice system, you don't say?
posted by nom de poop at 4:51 PM on January 11, 2016




I'm only 3 episodes in, but I just have to say that the "interviews" of Brendan (by the police, and by his own lawyer's investigator) are absolutely enraging. How anyone could watch those and say "yeah, this was totally voluntary, and not the result of a not-very-smart 16 year old being bullied into saying whatever it would take to be let out of this situation" is just ... gah.

It is completely transparent that he's fishing for whatever the fuck thing the detectives are trying to get him to say, and has no idea what it is. His later writing down of the events (only to be coerced to try again and "tell the truth" that time) for the lawyer's investigator only underlines the fact that this kid still doesn't understand what's going on, and how badly he fucked himself in the original interrogation.

Fuck police interrogation tactics.
posted by tocts at 5:33 AM on January 14, 2016 [7 favorites]


I made it through 9 of 10 episodes. I was just so angered and sickened that I can't bring myself to watch the 10th. Am I missing anything super important or is it just more "this whole thing really sucks"?
posted by dnash at 4:00 PM on January 17, 2016


So I watched the first one and didn't care -- honestly Avery seemed like a dick (still does -- he seems better, but a bit because all his energy is now focussed on the case). But then I decided to keep going and got into a binge-watching black hole and managed them all in 3 days.

I'm really unclear why the town hated the Avery family so much from the outset.

And because, yes, it's a puzzle, I'm not sure if I think Avery did it; I think that evidence was placed because the police believed he did it. If he did do it, it's not entirely inconceivable that Brendan was coerced into some of it and then expanded it based on what he's seen on tv/movies/video games/whatever. The interviews are complete bullshit, either way.

I'd like to have heard from the victim's family, though it's pretty obvious why we aren't. It must be horrible for them to have this entire story dragged back out and made into internet investigative fodder.
posted by jeather at 5:06 PM on January 17, 2016


Am I missing anything super important or is it just more "this whole thing really sucks"?

There's a twist in the 10th, but you could probably find it by googling.
posted by drezdn at 5:25 PM on January 17, 2016


I just finished all ten. This was one of the most deeply disturbing things I've ever seen.

I think, because it was so long (i've never watched a 10 hour documentary on anything, come to think of it), and it was so intense, and the film somehow acutely conveyed the feeling of hopelessness of what it's like to be in a system totally stacked against you. The system won't protect you. Those protections are for innocent people. Everybody thinks you are guilty.

The link mentioned above mentions Kafka and I think thats probably the closest comparison to describe the sticky, persistent disquiet that this left me with.
posted by cacofonie at 8:08 PM on January 17, 2016 [2 favorites]


This New Yorker piece resonates for me. How "Making a Murderer" Went Wrong

"...while people nearly always think that they are on the side of the angels, what finally matters is that they act that way. The point of being scrupulous about your means is to help insure accurate ends, whether you are trying to convict a man or exonerate him. Ricciardi and Demos instead stack the deck to support their case for Avery, and, as a result, wind up mirroring the entity that they are trying to discredit."
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 8:37 AM on January 18, 2016


I'm not so impressed by 5,000 words that essentially throws its hands up, "it's a sucky situation, but the filmmakers did it wrong." This waffling is ably illustrated by the author's Wikipedia page:
Reviewing her book Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error (2010), Dwight Garner wrote: "Ms. Schulz’s book is a funny and philosophical meditation on why error is mostly a humane, courageous and extremely desirable human trait.
posted by rhizome at 12:27 PM on January 18, 2016 [2 favorites]


Metafilter: I'm not so impressed
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 12:55 PM on January 18, 2016 [3 favorites]


The New Yorker article, oddly, has its own predetermined certitude.
“Making a Murderer” raises serious and credible allegations of police and prosecutorial misconduct in the trials of Steven Avery and Brendan Dassey. It also implies that that misconduct was malicious. That could be true; vindictive prosecutions have happened in our justice system before and they will happen again. But the vast majority of misconduct by law enforcement is motivated not by spite but by the belief that the end justifies the means—that it is fine to play fast and loose with the facts if doing so will put a dangerous criminal behind bars.
This makes me think the author maybe only half-watched the series. Dean Strang addresses this exact thing in an interview in the middle of the series, and then later, it is a big part of his closing statement.
The petition points to another weakness of “Making a Murderer”: it is far more concerned with vindicating wronged individuals than with fixing the system that wronged them.
While it is good to fix the system, why is it the responsibility of a documentary about a specific case to address this?
posted by ignignokt at 6:51 AM on January 19, 2016 [3 favorites]


I think it goes back to the anti-intellectual trope, "It doesn't fix everything, so it's wrong and everybody should shut up about it."
posted by rhizome at 9:37 AM on January 19, 2016 [2 favorites]


I don't really understand why you're so hostile to that article, rhizome. Especially I'm confused because there's nothing about it that implied "it doesn't fix everything, so it's wrong and everybody should shut up about it."

I agree with the writer because I think that it's arguable that the documentary does more harm than good. It is dishonest about the case against Avery and Dassey -- in leaving so much of the case against them out and by generally presenting everything as if they are obviously innocent, the documentary ends up persuading public sentiment that the the primary issue here is that they are innocent, not that the police and prosecution committed professional misconduct and that both deserve another trial. It ironically and infuriatingly reinforces Kratz's quip that "reasonable doubt is for the innocent". Our outrage over this should not hinge on whether we believe that Avery and Dassey are innocent.

Of course the filmmakers have a bias, they're not automatons. But as a baseline they have some professional responsibilities as documentarians and, additionally, to the degree to which they present themselves not as advocates for Avery and Dassey, but as a disinterested recorder of history as it happens, they ought to work to resist their bias and be scrupulous. There's so many examples, but to take one of them, Avery's gun, demonstrates the problem. In ten hours, with thousands of hours of footage, they completely and entirely omitted Avery's gun. Where it was found, the ballistics match to the bullet, everything. Yet, in contrast, they spend a minute or so showing the footage of the testimony and playing the recording of the cop asking over the radio about Hallbach's license plate, including a dramatic music cue.

I don't, in the end, think that this does more harm than good. While there are a huge number of people who are upset because they think that Avery is obviously innocent, everyone agrees that everything to do with the case against Dassey is outrageous. I do wonder how many of them would be more ambivalent were they to know that Avery told Jodi in one of her phone calls that evening that Dassey was helping clean the garage that night or that when Dassey came home, his mom noticed that he had a bleach stain on his jeans. So I do worry that in Dassey's case, too, many people's outrage is a function of their belief that he was innocent, rather than the interrogations without his mother present, his egregiously incompetent initial representation, and the grievous errors of the court concerning his case. None of that depends upon his innocence. But, ultimately, I do think that with Dassey, at least, people come away with the idea that something is very broken, regardless of his guilt or innocence.

I most strongly agree with Beernsten's view, which the writer was basically repeating and amplifying, which is that it's a big problem that people are uncomfortable with ambiguity and therefore manufacture -- both in their minds and sometimes even in the external world -- a false certainty. Twice, law enforcement jumped to the certainty that Avery was guilty of a crime; twice, the public at the media's behest similarly jumped to the certainty that Avery was guilty of a crime. In the first instance, we know he wasn't. In the second, we know that there are big questions about the case against him and, especially, Dassey. And so it's a sad irony that the primary effect of this documentary is to just repeat the media and public's error, but in the other direction, to brush aside the ambiguity and jump to the conclusion that both Avery and Dassey are innocent (and, for many people, to jump to the conclusion that they were framed by law enforcement).
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 10:41 AM on January 19, 2016 [1 favorite]


I'm hostile toward it because, as you yourself illustrate here, it all adds up to reasonable doubt. Ambiguity is supposed to favor the accused, and everything you mention feeds that ambiguity. For instance, ballistics matched the casings but not the bullet (only concluding that it is a .22).

The line Inignokt posted above, that the series creators didn't focus on "fixing the system," is what I was referring to in my comment about the perfect being the enemy of the good.

From the New Yorker article:
Toward the end of the series, Dean Strang, Steven Avery’s defense lawyer, notes that most of the problems in the criminal-justice system stem from “unwarranted certitude”—what he calls “a tragic lack of humility of everyone who participates.” Ultimately, “Making a Murderer” shares that flaw; it does not challenge our yearning for certainty or do the difficult work of helping to foster humility.


An offensive conclusion that saddles the makers with the author's concerns. Who said they were trying to "challenge our yearning for certainty?" By all accounts they did succeed in challenging the certainty of the process, though.
posted by rhizome at 1:47 PM on January 19, 2016 [3 favorites]


So I watched the first one and didn't care -- honestly Avery seemed like a dick (still does -- he seems better, but a bit because all his energy is now focussed on the case). But then I decided to keep going and got into a binge-watching black hole and managed them all in 3 days.

I'm really unclear why the town hated the Avery family so much from the outset.


I grew up in a small(ish) town in New England and there was a family who had almost the exact reputation as the Averys, eerily enough they were involved in auto salvage as well. They were poor, kept to themselves and were constantly scapegoated for all sorts of reasons. It sort of defies explanation except to say that human nature likes to identify and persecute outsiders. Insert your favorite psychological reason for why here.
posted by jeremias at 4:26 PM on January 19, 2016 [1 favorite]


The full transcripts from the Steven Avery trial are finally available.
posted by triggerfinger at 5:23 PM on January 19, 2016


This is one of the most depressing tidbits: Len Kachinsky has not only continued to practice law, he's a municipal judge in Menasha, WI.
posted by Corvid at 6:49 PM on January 20, 2016 [1 favorite]


Municipal courts are traffic and misdemeanor courts and such; and in many jurisdictions, municipal judges don't even have to be attorneys.

That he's working as a municipal judge is actually sort of encouraging to me, as opposed to the many worse things that idiot could be doing within the legal system.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 10:29 PM on January 20, 2016 [1 favorite]


Maybe the legal system has a way of filtering people like him away from having any exposure to felonies, while still allowing them to practice and sit as a judge.
posted by rhizome at 10:47 PM on January 20, 2016


On Ken Kratz and ambition
posted by rhizome at 2:10 PM on January 24, 2016 [3 favorites]


I think coming after the year of Ferguson, it's not surprising that Making a Murderer would create less of a splash. Systemic failings of the criminal justice system, you don't say?

I actually thought this timing was perhaps part of why Making a Murderer in fact has created a splash. It's just another example of systemic failings of the criminal-justice system, right on the heels of a year during which a lot of people discussed that topic all the time—and this time, it happened to white people, in one of the whitest states in the country, which probably on some subconscious level makes it more relatable somehow to a lot of white people. Yes, it happened to "the other" still, because those accused were of low socioeconomic status and intelligence and lived on the margins in a lot of ways, but this is still a more relatable "other" to many white folks. It seems like a lot of people have been talking about this show and virally spreading word of it in a way that doesn't occur very often for documentaries. That's happened with Serial too, but I think likeatoaster makes a good point in comparing the two.
posted by limeonaire at 2:26 PM on January 25, 2016


Man, and otherwise, the thing that struck me, which I see cropped up again in this Ken Kratz letter rhizome linked, is this Room 101–level stuff where multiple people in various contexts throughout the series tell people to "be honest" or to "stop lying" when what they really want is for the person to say back to them what they want to hear or have already decided to believe. It's just insane gaslighting, regardless of what one's personal version of the truth might be. Mike Halbach says things like that several times about both Avery and Dassey, shaking his head and blankly expressing his disappointment that the accused didn't choose to be honest. What he really seemed to want was for the accused to verify the version of events he'd already chosen to believe. And of course there's the more than 75 times that Dassey was told by cops he was lying—ultimately it seems like he lied to stop them from telling him he was lying. This is just twisted, mind-blowingly insane stuff, regardless of whether one is innocent.
posted by limeonaire at 2:52 PM on January 25, 2016 [5 favorites]


This film is why I can't practice criminal defense and why I salute those who've got the stomach to be able to do it; they're doing God's work, because the deck is stacked so heavily against the accused in this country from start to finish and that's not how the founding fathers intended it to be. That moment in the video of Brandon's interrogation when Brandon asks if he can leave in time to make his 6th hour class shattered me. The kid has no idea that those cops have irreversibly altered his live by manipulating a confession. He just wants to tell the cops what they want to hear so he can go to school to turn in his project.

I wish every parent would show the footage of Brendan's interrogations to their teenagers as part of a bigger conversation about how to assert 4th and 5th amendment rights. Kids need to understand that cops can and will lie to elicit a confession, and face zero repercussions, while in many jurisdictions, lying to a police officer can lead to perjury charges. That is not a level playing field. The only winning move is not to play, by teaching our kids that they do not have to waive their rights by answering questions from a law enforcement officer without an attorney present, even in the face of insurmountable pressure and lies ("Your mom says it's okay to talk to us.").

I haven't made it all the way through the series yet, so I have no idea of the specifics of how Brendan's trial plays out, but it doesn't matter to me because in my mind, those cops irrevocably poisoned the entire case and destroyed a kid with that first interrogation, and Teresa Halbach, her family, and the people of the State of Wisconsin in whose names he was prosecuted deserve better. The fact that the state had to rely on him to get to Avery speaks volumes to me about the weaknesses of their case, because the unreliability of child witnesses is well documented. There are entire CLEs devoted to impeachment of child witnesses.

And don't even get me started on Kachinsky. I can't even grok how he still has a license to practice, but then again, I'm not familiar with Wisconsin's Code of Professional Conduct.
posted by Dr. Zira at 7:42 PM on January 26, 2016 [10 favorites]


If you think Kachinsky's actions are questionable now (without having seen the rest of the series), just wait until the last episode.

In the early episodes, there's things Kachinsky and his investigator do that strike the viewer as wrong, but in the last episode we find out even more about it, and it is utterly horrifying. The two of them were basically working for Steven Avery's prosecution, and completely violated their duty of loyalty to their own client (Brendan Dassey) with the stated intent (documented in emails) of turning Dassey into an asset for the prosecution against Avery. All of the insanity of the investigator pressuring Dassey to confess (despite him saying he was innocent), and of letting Dassey be interrogated without counsel, were completely on purpose on the part of Kachinsky.

I finished this last night, and basically the whole thing is just unbelievably sad and enraging. The best case scenario is that Avery is guilty, but the police then conspired to frame a guilty man just to be sure he got put away. Even in that scenario, I think it is almost undeniable that Dassey had nothing to do with it, and is now in jail for the majority of his life because a 16 year old with an IQ of 70 was put in a room with two detectives who then bullied him into saying whatever they wanted.

And of course, given how much questionable shit went on with the police, there's still a fair chance that in fact Steven Avery is innocent, and that there's a killer still out there who has not been caught.
posted by tocts at 5:07 AM on January 27, 2016 [9 favorites]


Brandon, a mentally-challenged minor, was repeatedly interviewed without either his attorney or his mother present. I don't recall any supposedly incriminating details from him that weren't prompted by leading questions by the police or his defense investigator.

In his trial they claimed that Theresa was bound to the bed with ropes and chains, she was stabbed and her throat was slit. Where's the damage to the bed from chains and ropes? Where's the blood? There would be blood all over the room and the bed and the mattress.
posted by kirkaracha at 10:28 PM on January 28, 2016 [3 favorites]


I assume everyone's seen this news story from today about Brendan's conviction overturned, good news!
posted by jamesonandwater at 3:08 PM on August 12, 2016 [7 favorites]


I'm writing this comments several months on from the last - after watching "Making a Murderer" any feeling haunted. It seems that Dassey has still not been released. Note this related FPP from a short while ago also.

It is very easy - and completely justifiable - to be caught up in the reality of the cases, as we have been here: real people still languishing in jail, a corrupt police and judicial system and possibly a murderer still at large. But the documentary did not pick up its 11 awards for no reason - so it is also interesting to appreciate as a work of art in its own right. Part of the challenge of the story its its huge complexity - and the ability to produce something 10 hours long and 10 years in the making - is pretty remarkable. I think the rise of platforms like Netflix help make this sort of presentation viable when it would not have been before.
posted by rongorongo at 3:39 AM on July 25, 2017 [2 favorites]


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