Are We Making Murderers?

Are We Making Murderers?

Lauren PesinThursday,28 January 2016

Isn’t it funny how ten dramatic fun-filled episodes of a Netflix documentary series can inspire so much rage?

Making a Murderer has done just that.  Among a large portion of the U.S. population and my friends, co-workers, and social network, the series has caused great debates.  The series spawned online petitions to free the accused and even resulted in a comment from the White House. In case you are in the part of the population that has not heard of or watched the series (or even watched TV or read the news), I will briefly explain.


The Basics— Steven Avery, an adult male from rural Wisconsin with a criminal history, was imprisoned for eighteen years for a crime he did not commit. Avery got out of prison. Avery sued the county for $36 million…dun-dun-dah…two years later he was arrested and prosecuted for the murder of Teresa Halbach. In addition, his 16-year old nephew, Brendan Dassey (socially inept with an observed limited mental capacity) was arrested, interrogated, and confessed to participating in the murder. The great controversy relates to the focus of the series, which includes allegations of injustice, mistreatment, and corruption by the Wisconson Manitowoc County police department and court system. The controversy and emotion also pertain to the careful picture the series paints.

I have to admit that as I watched each episode unfold, I was drawn in emotionally. I witnessed the controversy and felt the fire to fight injustice build. I was hooked almost immediately. As I watched the series my rage boiled over following the allegation that law enforcement planted or even mishandled evidence in this serious of an investigation. Even more so than my intense anger and frustration born from the level of corruption pertaining to the murder charges against the adult in the case, I was even more disgusted and outraged over the mistreatment of the teen involved.

The minor defendant, Brendan Dassey, then 16 years old, was (1) a child, (2) of less than average intelligence, and (3) ill-equipped to understand and make decisions related to the allegations against him. It broke my heart to see on video the exploitation and mistreatment of this child, with nobody defending him. The very people who were charged with protecting him were themselves conspiring against him. At least, that’s how I and the makers of the series see it.

All my biased opinions aside, the show left me with multiple questions.

1.  Is the current U.S. legal system (from cops to courts) postured to allow police and investigators to plant evidence and mishandle investigations without accountability and oversight?

2.  Given the current trends of treating juveniles just like adults in the U.S. legal system, are we properly and justly handling juvenile defendants, specifically as it relates to interrogations of minors and the handling of children with intellectual disabilities?

We may never know the truth about the Halbach murder. We may never know what is true about the series Making a Murderer.

However, the level of truth or facts depicted in the controversial and emotional docu-series is only one part of the story. Making a Murderer highlights potential conditions within the U.S. legal system that need attention, or at the very least require further examination if we as a society want to stop making murderers and criminals and increase the likelihood of justice.

Are Steven Avery and Brendan Dassey guilty? Are police corrupt? How often do you think police plant evidence or coerce juveniles into false confessions? Is Making a Murderer just a pile of sensationalistic trash? Are we making murderers?

If this was a single occurrence, it may not be so bad, but I’m pretty sure we’re screwed.

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Image Credit: Manitowoc Sheriff’s Department, via Wikimedia Commons

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