For the past two months, I have been trying to avoid any and all news about “Making a Murderer,” the 10-part Netflix documentary about a man named Steven Avery, who was wrongfully convicted and imprisoned for 18 years on a rape charge, then was free for a year before getting arrested again and being charged with murder.
So many people in my life had told me it was fantastic, that the 10-year process undertaken by filmmakers Laura Ricciardi and Moira Demos had resulted in an amazing look at our criminal justice system, as seen through the small-town Manitowoc County, Wisc. sheriff’s office.
I knew I would love it. What I didn’t know, and what I learned as I finally plowed through it over the past few weeks, was just how infuriated “Making A Murderer” would make me.
Over 10 episodes, you will get outraged and angered over and over again, and wonder how in the world what happened to Steven Avery could happen in America.
It was a sensational, sensational movie. Of course I have some thoughts, but first, a WARNING! THERE ARE SPOILERS AHEAD!If you plan to watch “MAM” and don’t want to know anything about it, skip ahead to the video underneath this part of the post.
OK, for the rest of us, some thoughts I must share:
— Point No.1: Steven Avery was no saint. He may even be considered a bad guy, and not very helpful to society. But when a person is put on trial, the prosecution must prove they are guilty “beyond a reasonable doubt,” and I don’t know how anyone can watch this series and NOT see reasonable doubt. From the lack of Teresa Halbach’s DNA on her car key, to the completely ridiculous story told by Avery’s nephew Brendan Dassey (more on him in a bit), the amazing conflicts of interest the Manitowoc County Sheriff’s Dept. had, I saw reasonable doubt all over the place. There was so little evidence tying Avery to the crime that it stunned me not only that he lost, but that every appeal so far has been denied.
— Point No. 2: What the Sheriff’s office and his own attorneys did to teenaged, low-IQ Brendan Dassey was absolutely deplorable. Between his extremely-coerced confession, where he was basically led by the hand, to the horribly biased job done by Dassey’s public defender, who was basically in cahoots with the sheriff, this poor kid was railroaded by the system. I don’t think he had anything to do with Teresa’s murder at all, and yet he’ll be in prison for 40 years because of a grossly unfair arrest and trial.
— No. 3: Avery’s lawyers, who he hired with the $400,000 he settled for in a civil suit from the earlier false conviction, were fantastic. Dean Strang and Jerry Buting did a marvelous job picking apart the prosecution’s case, and pointing out how easily Manitowoc Co.’s investigators could have planted evidence.
— No. 4: On the other hand, special prosecutor Ken Kratz struck me as just an asshole. From his smug attitude, to his completely unethical story-changing of how Avery committed the murder, Kratz was everything that’s wrong with our legal system. Happy to find out that he eventually resigned from his post after a sexting scandal.
— Finally, of all the crazy things that happened during this series, what dumbfounded me the most was how both Kratz and Strang/Buting held daily press conferences, during Avery’s trial, where they explained their strategy and answered very detailed questions. I have never, ever seen anything like that, and I can’t possibly imagine why the lawyers thought it was a good idea.
I mean, that’s unheard of.
I strongly, strongly recommend “Making a Murderer.” It’s fairly addictive, and it’s a fantastic portrait of just how easily our criminal justice system can ruin lives.
**Next up today, John Oliver’s fantastic series “Last Week Tonight” began its third season last week, and thank the Lord for that. As I’ve said many times in this space before, Oliver is the funniest, smartest and downright clever-est late-night host out there, and I never, ever watch his show and fail to be wildly entertained.
For his second show back he tackled the always-controversial issue of abortion, and how states over the past few years have disgustingly rolled back laws and made the procedure incredibly more difficult to procure.
As usual, Oliver’s biting commentary hit home. Really, really important stuff.
**Quick interlude here to show you this amazing play from Steph Curry of the Golden State Warriors, who may be the most entertaining athlete in any sport right now. Wow, is he amazing…
**And finally today, I’m Jewish so this wouldn’t apply to me, but I think it’s pretty funny and awesome.
There’s a new bus driving around England these days called the “Mercy Bus,” and on it you can give confession if you feel the need, and you’re too busy to get to church.
Commit a sin on your way to the bus stop? No worries, friend! You can get that off your mind immediately.
Steal someone’s seat on the bus? Say something horrible on a cell phone call while on the bus? Don’t sweat it another minute, you can get absolution before your next stop!
Says Father Frankie Mulgrew, the inventor of the bus:
“The Mercy Bus is for everybody, as God’s mercy is for everybody. If anybody has a burden, we’re inviting them to come onto the bus and be free from it.”
Grab a token and get your Hail Marys ready, all aboard!