The Making a Murderer documentary series on Netflix provides a great deal of insight into the extraordinary criminal case brought against Steven Avery for his alleged murder of Teresa Halbach. The significant degree of corruption allegations, investigative and trial anomalies, and the fact that Avery had been wrongfully convicted before all come to suggest that Avery had not actually been responsible for Halbach’s murder. However, I would admittedly be inclined to disagree with the suggestion of Avery’s innocence that all of this would seem to imply. My personal opinion is that Avery was not guilty of the murder just as was the case in his previous wrongful conviction for sexual assault case. The appearance of corruption in so many instances throughout the course of the investigation and trial leading to his conviction on the murder charge is simply far too compelling to ignore.
The cases of both Steven Avery and Brendan Dassey as they were portrayed within Making a Murderer were ultimately very easy to follow, thorough in their coverage of practically every aspect of the alleged criminals’ backgrounds and personal relationships, and most importantly very interesting. The fact that Dassey’s involvement with the case of Teresa Halbach’s murder had earned him some focus within the Netflix documentary certainly contributed to the documentary’s effectiveness and demonstrated its goal in analyzing the case impartially while including a comprehensive look at all of the facts and circumstances relevant to the case. It is also important to note that the documentary’s portrayal of both Avery and Dassey does not seem to accompany any particular agenda to demonize them or to convey them as victims worthy of sympathy, but instead offers a much more substantive look into the nature of their stories.
Upon watching this documentary series, I had learned several new things about our criminal justice system, most of which had disturbed me to some degree. Perhaps most disturbing of all was having learned the ease with which police and investigators are able to tamper with evidence while avoiding detection. While I had of course been aware at the potential for tampering with evidence beforehand, it was the fact that the investigators in Avery’s case had very likely done so while leaving Avery’s defense unable to conclusively prove it. Another disturbing reality regarding the criminal justice system that I had learned upon watching this documentary series is the immense degree of difficulty involved in establishing innocence after having been wrongly convicted of a criminal offense. Steven Avery’s path to clearing his name of his wrongful sexual assault conviction was very clearly a grueling one, unnecessarily so considering that he had a strong alibi supported by numerous witnesses. The fact that it had taken for DNA testing after spending almost two decades in prison to finally get him released and exonerated truly shone a light on a truly horrifying flaw within our country’s criminal justice system.
The Making a Murderer documentary series has demonstrated above all else that there is a very serious need for reforms to be made to our criminal justice system. First on that list of reforms must clearly be a reform to the appeals and exoneration process for the wrongfully convicted. While DNA testing has certainly brought forth a lot of progress in clearing the names of incarcerated Americans convicted before the technology had become available, it has not brought with it the much needed change to the mechanisms of the system itself. Steven Avery’s conviction for Teresa Halbach’s murder took place at a time when DNA testing was available, and yet he is still very likely sitting in prison as an innocent man. Beyond reform to the appeals and exoneration process, it is also clear that there must be reform to the evidence gathering processes among police, to further prevent the ability for evidence tampering to take place and to be able to detect it when it does.