Making A Murderer: Wrongfully Convicted or Rightfully Guilty?

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By: Alicia Gallagher

In 1985, a 24-year-old Steven Avery was convicted for a sexual assault that he did not commit. He spent 18 years in prison as an innocent man. In 2003, new evidence proved Avery’s innocence and he was exonerated of all crimes. Barely two years after his release from prison, Avery was accused of another crime: murder.

You may have heard of the new series, Making a Murderer, when scrolling through Netflix looking for something to watch. It has received a 97% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes and a 9/10 on IMDb . The December 2015 release triggered a huge revival of the Steven Avery case, causing the public and media to take another look into the story of a convicted murderer. It is a ten-part documentary series centered around the already wrongfully convicted man, Steven Avery. Each episode is about an hour, containing interviews with Steven Avery himself, his family, and his friends, along with video recordings of the trial that took place in 2007. The series is attention grabbing and thought-provoking, leaving you wondering if Avery is really innocent or rightfully guilty.

The story starts from the perspective of the Avery family and about their life in the town of Manitowoc County, Wisconsin. Being at a lower class both economically and fundamentally,the Avery’s were looked down upon and socially excluded. Avery’s childhood and past arrests are explored, telling about his petty crimes and his one animal cruelty charge in some detail. During this part of the documentary, Avery was considered to be a delinquent, but was shown that he was always honest when he dealt with the law.

Written and directed by Moira Demos and Laura Ricciardi, the mini docu-series shows an incredible bias towards Steven Avery’s innocence. While the story is supposed to be in the perspective of Steven Avery, Teresa Halbach’s story is also briefly told. Halbach was a 25-year-old photographer who was brutally murdered on October 31st 2005. Avery was the last person known to see her alive. Steven Avery was the first and seemingly only suspect in the case.

Steven Avery claimed that he was an innocent man, and did not end Teresa Halbach’s life back in 2005. Because of the lawsuit he filed against the Manitowoc County Sheriff’s Department for his wrongful conviction in 1985, Avery was able to afford two of the best lawyers in the state, Dean Strang and Jerry Buting. Their obstacle was to prove a man innocent, who was already perceived as guilty in the eyes of the jury. They were trying to prove that the Manitowoc County planted evidence and framed Steven Avery. Before there was any evidence linking Avery to the murder, the sheriff’s department asked the arresting officers, “Do we have Steven Avery in custody though?”, possibly giving the impression of premeditation. During the investigation of Steven Avery, his small trailer was searched “seven or eight times”. On one of the final searches, a Manitowoc County officer found Halbach’s car key in Avery’s bedroom. The Manitowoc County Sheriff’s Department was not supposed to be a part of the Avery investigation due to the open lawsuit Avery filed against them. It was not shown whether this affected the case positively or negatively.

The documentary series finds discrepancies in the evidence presented by the prosecutors creating a reasonable doubt of Avery’s guilt. This series, because it was told in Avery’s point of view, leaves out crucial evidence that did not support Avery’s claim of innocence. For example, his DNA was found under the hood of Halbach’s SUV, and the fact that Avery had a violent side to his personality.

For more information on the Avery case, Dateline presents the story with a different perspective of the case. YouTube  has a variety of theories and opinions as well. Watching the Netflix series alone would not be able to provide enough information on the case, but there are many other sources to learn more about Steven Avery. The question still remains: is Steven Avery innocent and wrongfully convicted, or is he just trying to get out of a guilty verdict?

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