Over the Holiday break I indulged myself in the much talked about Netflix Original Documentary Series, “Making a Murderer” and found myself asking so many questions to which I had very little answer to.
“Making a Murderer” is a Netflix Original documentary series which was filmed over ten years. The documentary series told a story about a man named Steven Avery. He was wrongfully convicted of rape and attempted murder in 1985 and was later exonerated due to DNA evidence proving Steven Avery did not commit the crimes. Avery spent 18 years in prison. He maintained his innocence the whole time.
After the Innocence Project discovered Avery’s case they decided to use new found technology, at the time, DNA in order to exonerate Avery. After Avery’s release from prison, he sued the Manitowoc County, Wisconsin for wrongful conviction at the amount of $36 million dollars. Shortly after his lawsuit went public and numerous county officials were deposed, Avery was accused of the murder of Teresa Halbach, a photographer for Auto Trader, who was last seen on the Avery family property.
This documentary series depicts how the Manitowoc County sheriff’s department took part in and the procedures that were followed that led to both Avery’s original (1985) conviction and the second conviction of murder of Teresa Halbach. The show also depicts the trial of Brendan Dassey, Avery’s nephew, who was also accused and convicted during the murder investigation.
There are several questions and problems that I have with the poor execution of law in Manitowoc County.
1. Conflict of interest – Manitowoc County vs. Steven Avery.
Due to the conflict of interest, Manitowoc County requested neighboring Calumet County send in a special prosecutor who would be responsible for handling the Teresa Halbach murder investigation proceedings because their initial target was Steven Avery. Halbach was last seen on Avery’s property. The D.A. for Calumet County was Ken Kratz.
- Kudos to Manitowoc County for trying to appear innocent for the general public and media after wrongfully convicting Avery for a crime which he did not commit in 1985. There were several miscarriages of the law and mishandling of information such as: avoiding a conversation with a law enforcement officer who called in to Manitowoc County that said, “I have a man in custody who has admitted to a crime in your county that someone else is in jail for.” The officer who took the call did not write a report nor did he investigate the claim that would have exonerated Avery 10 years early. The report was written, 8 years after the officer received the phone call after learning that Avery was released from prison. Manitowoc County had decided that Avery was guilty in 1985 so they made sure they put him away in 1985, and again in the Halbach homicide investigation they decided Avery was guilty, so they made sure they could do it again and avoid losing $36 million dollars and possible termination or suspension from the department for their wrongdoings in 1985.
- There were special orders that Manitowoc County was not to take part in the investigation at all. Their reasoning for having Manitowoc County officers and sheriff’s at the crime scene and investigating the Avery case was Calumet requested resources to help investigate – resources in terms of equipment, not manpower. They key piece of evidence that Kratz kept going back to throughout the trial was Halbach’s key, bones, and three blood stains of Avery’s found in Halbach’s vehicle. I have some problem with all of the evidence that Kratz thought was gold in order to prosecute. Halbach’s key was found in Avery’s bedroom which was discovered by Lt. James Lenk on the third or fourth visit to the Avery property. Lenk was not present during the prior visits, yet – during his first visit to the Avery residence he finds this key? That seemed considerably off to me as a number of officers were at the residence prior to Lenk that could have easily noticed the key, but no one seemed to find this key except Lenk. Lenk was also one of the officers that was deposed for the lawsuit which Avery filed against Manitowoc County and its sheriffs – he was aiming to lose a lot if the lawsuit was not dropped. During court Lenk lied under oath. He was asked when he arrived at the Avery property to which he responded shortly after 2 p.m. around 2:05, or so while in another testimony which was played in court, by Avery’s lawyers, he stated that he arrived at the Avery property early evening around 6:30 or 7:00 p.m. and there was an officer on site who was keeping log of everyone who was coming in and out, and Lenk signed out at 2:30 p.m. but there is no record of him ever signing in. A little suspicious?
2. Three pieces of DNA of Steven Avery – one of Teresa Halbach – where’s the rest?
Based on Avery’s nephew, Brendan Dassey’s testimony the prosecution made allegations that Teresa Halbach was tied up, sexually assaulted, her throat was slit, and she was shot several times. After her death, she was burned in the burn pit where her remains were found. There are several problems that I find with Brendan Dassey’s confession:
- He was a minor at the time Halbach was murdered; he was 16 and he was questioned without a parent or guardian’s approval, without a parent or guardian being present, and without a lawyer being present during the interrogation. The two investigators who questioned Dassey took him out of school and brought him to the police station to interrogate him without parent’s permission and without a lawyer present.
- The investigators fed information to Dassey and his confession was coerced. The prosecution played majority of the confession tape, but didn’t play the part of the tape in which Brendan tells his mother (who later shows up after the police call her to tell her that her son is under arrest) that the police officers got to his head.
- The investigators manipulated Dassey by telling him numerous times that he should tell them the truth and if he does tell them the truth, he won’t go to jail. In my opinion, I don’t think Dassey was comprehending the situation in which he found himself in – he even asked the investigators if he would be back in school by 1:30 p.m. because he had a test that day. You tell me, if you, as a teenager, were faced with a murder charge or are being questioned as a suspect would your first thought be “I have to get back to school to take my test?” Probably not. Mine would’ve been, “I need a lawyer or my parents, because I need to tell them what’s going on.”
- The court appointed lawyer that Dassey had was Len Kachinsky (believe me when I say he’s the biggest joke of a lawyer I have ever seen). Being Dassey’s lawyer – whether he was guilty of the crime or not, he is defending his client against the prosecution his aim should’ve been to defend him. Not get him to confess, especially to a crime which he did not commit (he maintains his innocence even today). Kachinsky hired an investigator who would work with Dassey, but instead he was pressing Dassey to confess. During a taped session between Dassey and Kachinsky’s investigators, you see the investigator tell Dassey that he has to apologize for what happened to Halbach and to write out, in detail, what happened that night. Dassey writes out exactly what happened, he wrote (summarized) he came from school and went to his own house and played video games for a few hours and watched T.V. until Avery called him around 6 or 7 p.m. to invite him over to the bonfire, then he went over and helped Avery pick up junk around the yard and his mom called Avery around 9 p.m. to let him know that Dassey was to be home by 10. He went home. After reading this, the investigator told Dassey that’s not what happened is it? Can you write out the WHOLE truth – what are you leaving out? He then asked Dassey to draw Teresa on the bed and where she was. Who is defending Dassey? – No one.
Teresa Halbach allegedly tied up, sexually assaulted, throat slit, and shot eleven times – where is the blood? When someone slits someone else’s throat (this allegedly happened on Avery’s bed) there is blood, LOTS of it. No blood was found on Avery’s bed. If Avery shot her several times, where are the bullet fragments? There was only ONE bullet fragment found with Teresa’s DNA on it – this, however was behind barrels in the garage. If she was shot in the garage where is the blood? You must be thinking what I was thinking, maybe Avery cleaned it up with bleach, but a simple UV light would show where blood traces were and whether or not it was cleaned up by bleach. The investigators even dug up the garage because there was a crack on the garage floor that blood must have seeped into the concrete, they found nothing. What also didn’t make any sense to me is, why would he burn her and leave her remains only several feet from his bedroom window? Every salvage yard has a car crusher, why wouldn’t he use the crusher and crush her vehicle along with all the evidence.
The investigators found 3 spots in Teresa Halbach’s car where Steven Avery’s blood was present and the day he was questioned he did have a cut on his finger. It is quite possible, that while he was driving her car to the end of his lot he got the spots of blood on the car, but why not clean that up if he killed her? Why not bleach the spots? Why not use the crusher in his salvage yard to crush her car and completely destroy any shred of his evidence? When Steven Avery’s lawyers looked close into Lt. Lenk they noticed that Lenk had signed for a vial of Steven Avery’s blood and the container in which Steven Avery’s blood was kept in was re-taped – it was not in its original casing. The vial also had a needle hole on the top of it. Did Lt. Lenk do this, if not him then who? I don’t understand why this was not enough for the jury to not convict Steven Avery. But then again, when we hear Steven Avery is guilty, guilty, and guilty all over the media wouldn’t you vote guilty?
3. Prejudice against the Avery name.
The Manitowoc Sheriff’s Department didn’t like the Avery’s – it’s plain and simple. In 1985, the investigators arrested him, never investigated any other suspect in the case of the rape, and even drew a sketch from an earlier Avery mugshot which was allegedly how the victim described her attacker. The Manitowoc Sherriff’s Department didn’t assume that Avery was innocent until proven guilty, they assumed his guilt and made sure the jury would convict. They didn’t investigate anyone. They didn’t question anyone else.
No one in Halbach’s family or friends were questioned – if I was an investigator and I find that a young girl was murdered, would I go and question the last known whereabouts? Most definitely – I would have questioned Steven Avery, I would’ve questioned his brother who was the one that was working in the yard that day, and I would’ve questioned his sister, nephew, and everyone on the Avery lot. Every house would’ve been searched. EVERY ONE would’ve been questioned. I would have questioned her friends, her ex-boyfriend, her family, her brothers – everyone. I would’ve asked to talk to previous visitors that were on the lot earlier. The presumption that Avery was innocent was never considered. Manitowoc Sheriff’s Department said Avery is guilty therefore, let’s make him guilty. Many people had access to the Avery’s salvage yard and anyone could’ve harmed her. It’s unfortunate that Teresa Halbach lost her life – but I don’t think its Steven Avery who committed this crime.
After reading several articles on items that were left out of the Netflix documentary stating that there were more evidence than what was shown on the documentary series, I still believe that Steven Avery is innocent. I think that Steven Avery had no motive to kill Teresa Halbach. He was just about to receive several million dollars for his prior wrongful conviction, he was planning to marry Jodi, and on top of that he hated prison – why would he go back?
Maybe, I’m naïve and I’m ignoring facts, but I just believe that there were so many opportunities for Avery to destroy multiple pieces of evidence when he didn’t, because he either a) didn’t think he’d get caught b) was framed by the Manitowoc Sherriff’s Department so the lawsuit would be void c) he actually didn’t commit the crime and the actual murderer(s) are still out there. It is quite possible that Steven Avery did commit the murder of Teresa Halbach, but the lack of evidence should have been to stop it in pre-trial. Though it went to trial, there were numerous holes in the prosecution’s story that was not explored. Why wasn’t anyone except Steven Avery pursued as a suspect? Why wasn’t anyone else questioned?
This clearly shows prejudice on the prosecution’s end that they didn’t care who did it as long as Steven Avery was behind bars so the Manitowoc County did not have to pay out millions of dollars for what they did in 1985. I don’t understand how the jury convicted considering there were numerous possibilities of other suspects. The D.A. was an absolute joke who kept saying that they were brought in by the Manitowoc County in order to avoid conflict of interest. They didn’t come in on their own, they came in to protect their own. I don’t believe Steven Avery killed her, but even if he did, the execution of the law was absurd.
When, Steven Avery is a man whose IQ is incredibly low and is a man who needs actual help, his persistence in pleading his innocence is commendable. He continues to fight for his innocence. If a man wasn’t innocent, he wouldn’t be fighting so hard. Frankly speaking, Steven Avery and Brendan Dassey, deserve their fair day in court. I know the law enforcement officers of Calumet County and Manitowoc County received awards and promotions for their help in this man’s conviction and never received any reprimand for all the f$&8 ups that they did in 1985 till Avery’s conviction, but I hope that they get justice one day too – they need to spend eighteen years in prison and see how they’d like to be there for something that they actually did. If I were you, I’d make sure I never get arrested in Manitowoc County or else, you may end up spending the rest of your life in prison for a crime which you didn’t commit.