It definitely is the trending topic. In real life and online. I’m talking about the Netflix Documentary Making a Murderer. And with good reason. Not only in the USA, but worldwide, people are outraged about what has been documented in the series. It does give us a disturbing view on the justice system in America. A fair warning though: below you’ll find nothing but spoilers. Further reading is at your own peril.Imagine the following. To be arrested and convicted for a crime that you didn’t do. To be released after years of legal warfare. Only to be arrested again. And to get a life sentence. Again. This happened to Steven Avery in Wisconsin (USA) and his road to prison is the subject of a breathtaking documentary that Netflix is streaming since December 18, 2015. Curious? You can watch the first episode of Making a murderer through Youtube.
Steven Avery is wrongfully imprisoned from 1985 till 2003
The documentary is made by Laura Ricciardi and Moira Demos and follows Steven Avery from the moment he is released in 2003. Avery has a incarceration behind him of 18 years for the rape and attempted murder on Penny Beerntsen. A DNA test proves another perpetrator is guilty of the rape of Penny Beerntsen. Avery’s freedom is short lived though. After two years he gets arrested again, this time on suspicion of the rape and murder of Teresa Halbach. The directors had one purpose with the documentary: to record if the justice system in America had improved since the conviction of Steven Avery in 1985. Sadly, everything that the ladies show u proves otherwise.
Manipulation by law
Every episode again I was appalled with the judicial errors. Because there were many! For instance the police of the city of Manitowoc get a confession out of a minor with an IQ of 69. I watched with horror how the police proceeded and trapped Brendan Avery, a cousin of Steven Avery.
I screamed at the screen: “How dare, you! The poor kid! Leave him alone. Brendan, make a call to your mother!! Don’t let them interrogate you alone!
A judge does declare that the lawyer of the young boy should have prevented the interrogation. Because, really, Brian shouldn’t have been interrogated without his lawyer or parent present. You think this is reason for the judge to throw out the testimony? Think again! The same judge allows the testimony to stand. And this kind of improbabilities are what makes Making a Murderer such a shocking serie. I was constantly on the edge of my seat, biting my nails. This couldn’t have happened! Real life can’t be this unjust. Making a murderer shows very clearly that if the police is after you, it is difficult to prove you’re innocent. Especially if you lack the funds for a good lawyer.
Comparison with West Memphis 3
But let’s be honest, we already knew that, didn’t we? I only have to point to the West Memphis 3, portrayed in the HBO serie Paradise Lost – The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills. West of Memphis (Arkansas) three boys of 8 are found murdered 1993: Steve Branch, Christopher Byers en James Moore. It doesn’t take the police long to suspect three teenagers who listen to heavy metal and wear long black leather coats. In the orthodox Christian community of Arkansas, the three boys are seen as the anti christ. The police force is not up for its task and does make big mistakes in the investigation into the murder of the 3 small boys. In Making a Murderer two men disappear behind bars, 1 a minor. In the HBO documentary Paradise Lost three lives are destroyed by the judicial errors, two of them minor. That’s not counting the lives of the three 8 year old boys.
If the WM3 aren’t the murderers of the 8 year old Steve Branch, Christopher Byers and James Moore, than who is?
Damien Echols spent 17 year on death row, from his 18th. Jessie Misskelley and Jason Baldwin did get life on their 16th and their 17th. All three were finally released in 2011. Half their life they spent in jail and Damien spent it 23 hours a day on death row. It is disturbing to notice that in the case of the West Memphis 3 a large part of the evidence was built on the testimony of a minor with an IQ under 70, Jessie Misskelley. Sounds familiar? What is even more disturbing is the fact that if Jason, Damien and Jessie didn’t kill the three eight year olds, than who did? Because this I didn’t hear anywhere, not on Making a Murderer and not on Paradise Lost: who did the killing?
Trial by jury
The main difference between the judicial system between the USA and the Netherlands of course, is the trial by Jury. In America a DA is supposed to make a case strong enough to convince the jury of the guilt of the suspect. It’s up to the lawyer to convince the juror of the contrary.
Innocent doesn’t necessarily mean that the suspect didn’t do it. It just proves that the DA didn’t do his job as he should.
The jury has but one job: to determine if the evidence the DA brought before them is enough to pronounce a guilty verdict. If not, there will be a not guilty. Which doesn’t necessarily mean the suspect didn’t do it. A not guilty just means that the DA didn’t get enough evidence to convict. A purely theoretical but very important difference, judicial! This is the exact reason OJ Simpson walked free after the trial. Despite a lot of jurors questioning his guilt, they couldn’t convict, based on what the DA had presented to them. The DA simply failed to prove that OJ Simpson murdered Nicole and her boyfriend. Of course the star team that defended him worked miracles too to bring all the arguments of the DA down. Of course this is the beauty of the system in the US: all parties involved need to follow the letter of the law.
It is disturbing to see this process can be reversed. If the jury is prejudiced, it doesn’t matter how bad the DA is. The jury doesn’t need the DA to be convinced about the guilt or innocence. The jury knows it all before the trial. The media can play a big part in this. But don’t underestimate the peer pressure of a small community. Everybody is connected with everyone. It doesn’t matter what the lawyer says or what specialist testifies.
Young lifes are being destroyed because of pettiness. Because of prejudice. Because of near- sightedness and stupidity.
Because that is what you are left with after watching Making a Murderer. This Netflix documntary causes a general feeling of outrage and unease. Because let’s be honest, if this can happen to Brendan Avery, it can happen to me or my child. This must be the thought that runs through so many minds in small villages in America. And who can blame them?
Did you watch Making a Murderer? What did you think?