I binge-watched Making A Murderer last weekend. It was sadly, only more proof of what my own family and I experienced with the justice system, but on a far more horrifying, unjust scale.
For those of you who haven’t watched the documentary outlining the bizarre case of Steven Avery and Brendan Dassey, you might want to just stop here. I would hate to spoil it for you. But, if you aren’t a Netflix binge-watching junkie like me, and have no desire to sit through 10 plus hours of this story, let me wrap it up in a neat little summary for you.
Steven Avery, a poor guy with a low IQ, has several skirmishes with the law as a young man, consisting of a few robberies he did with his friends. He pisses off a sheriff’s wife, who is a cousin of his, and she seems to use her influence with her husband to get him arrested on an embarrassing public indecency charge. (Supposedly, he ran out in the road while she was driving by his home, completely naked, and pretended to masturbate at her car.) There are a ton of holes in this woman’s story, and even she refuses to stand by her original account. This spot on Steven’s otherwise non-sexual, teenage-stupidity kind of robbery record helps later to get him convicted of a very serious sexual assault charge. A woman jogging on the beach is assaulted, almost raped, and beaten severely. The pissed off sheriff’s department never look for the real culprit, and instead, begin building a case against someone they feel is guilty. Because, as you all know, boys and girls, these days, law enforcement is happy to enforce by the adage – the end justifies the means.
Now, this first case is completely without any real, conclusive evidence, but fueled by a good old boy family of law enforcement workers who each contribute in their small way to create an image of a person that isn’t truly who Steven Avery really is. They ignored calls from other precincts, they played fast and loose with the traumatized witness’s mind by introducing pictures of Steven Avery over and over, and basically, sent an innocent man to prison for rape and attempted murder. 18 years later, DNA evidence exonerated Mr. Avery, and he walked out a free man. Vindicated after maintaining his innocence all along. The real criminal, Gregory Allen, was identified through DNA, and he admitted his guilt.. again…just like he had done 8 years before the DNA evidence was introduced.
Needless to say, Steven sues the county sheriff’s department. He asked for $36 million dollars because in our society, money talks and bullshit walks. If you want to teach a powerful organization to not bend the laws themselves, you have to make it hurt, and money is the easiest way to do that. Days after very damaging depositions are taken, a young woman, Teresa, disappears. Her last place to be seen was at Steven Avery’s trailer taking pictures of a van to go in a magazine for vehicle trading and sales.
Now, don’t get me wrong. Of course the first place you should start looking for someone is the last place they were known to have been. But the story that unfolds is the most ridiculous set of bullshit lies by law enforcement and district attorneys I’ve ever seen. I get this is a documentary presented in such a way to sway the watcher towards a same opinion, but when the evidence was so clearly tampered with, or completely lacking altogether, you can’t help but say, I agree. This was a set up to get out of paying Steven Avery money. Why is there a needle hole in a vial of blood in the evidence room? Where is all the spray back of blood on the layers and layers of shit stacked in a garage, the supposed murder scene? What are you seeing on these ridiculous taped video confessions that makes you think, yeah, buddy! This is a guilty person?!
What unfolds is so tragic because you can see clearly, there is no real justice in our court system, no matter how easy it is to see. Why? Because those who are positions that would have the power to intervene refuse to see anything but what they wanted to see. The judges, the cops, the district attorneys….they all conduct themselves as separate from the people they are supposed to govern. They rely on each other’s words, promises, and they care about their standing in a community none of the rest of us even truly understand. They lie shamelessly to the press. They lie shamelessly on the stand. They tout long, extinguished careers to the media, spouting the long dead adage – our cops serve and protect us. No. They do not.
What made Steven’s story so horrible is that his nephew, Brendan Dassey, a mentally challenged, sixteen year old high school student, was chosen by sheriff’s as the star witness they needed to tie together very, very questionable evidence. In short, they had nothing. The supposed mattress the girl was raped and stabbed on didn’t have so much as a drop of blood or a hair
on it. The cracks in the cement of a cluttered, filthy garage produced no blood, and no bleach or other cleaning solution. There was a dozen searches done before they found supposed evidence linking Steven to the girl lying right in plain sight….They weren’t finding any real evidence that couldn’t be explained away neatly with a frame up. So, they broke all of their own rules, and they targeted someone they felt they could coerce into giving them what they wanted. A conviction of a man who was a source of embarrassment to them, and soon, a very rich man. They did this by breaking a child, Brendan Avery, down again and again, to eek out of him the creepiest, most horrifying story of what happened to this girl. The best part? You get to watch them feeding Brendan the story they “feel” they know is what happened. He clearly hasn’t got a clue what is really going on, and he gives so many conflicting stories, he is genuinely useless as a witness. They finally, after hours, give up, and just tell him what they want him to say. OMG!! After Steven’s conviction, Brendan is also convicted of being his accomplice in killing Teresa.
There are recordings between Brendan and his mother that make his involvement a non-issue. He has been railroaded by his own attorney, his attorney’s lead investigator, two dirty cops, and a judge who cared more about not being embarrassed by ruling incorrectly in the case the first time, he wouldn’t even grant this kid a second trial. What I really love is that these people of power were so nonchalant about what they were doing, they put their missteps in memos and emails to one another. They didn’t care if we, the public, ever found out. Clearly, the judge wasn’t going to call them in for their sordid behavior. No. They ruined a kid’s life with impunity.
My heart is broken for this simple family. They aren’t rocket scientists. They aren’t physically beautiful, nor do they possess an iota of charm or sophistication. But what they do shine so brightly to the rest of us is the knowledge that they are innocent. Their family is innocent. They did nothing to deserve such pain and hopelessness to be crushing them. They tell us, through the tears, and wrinkles, and sad eyes, a cautionary tale about believing so naively that the innocent in this life will be vindicated. They will, but not by our courts. Not by our judges. We can only hope, only by a Court of Last Resort.
I’m sad for Steven Avery, but I’m less moved by his plight than I am of Brendan’s. Steven is engaged to be married, busy working on his own legal motions to be heard again. I’m, instead, more inclined to ask for justice on behalf of Brendan. He will never ask for his files and transcripts for his jail house attempt on his own behalf. He doesn’t have the intellect to mount anything. He isn’t capable of doing anything much on his own behalf, and because of that, it is incumbent on those of us who can, to at least say, Brendan shouldn’t be serving a life sentence because he wasn’t smart enough to outwit two people determined to see Steven go down for something they were having a problem proving, but felt like he was guilty of.
I’m a suspicious person by nature, so after binge-watching the show, I researched what was being said. There were those who posit that crucial evidence was left out of the documentary that proved Steven’s sweat was found on the hood of Teresa’s car, and Brendan had confessed to helping his uncle move the vehicle. That was about the gist of this crucial evidence. What blew my mind is that people actually wrote that it was dangerous for the public — that’s me and you– to be allowed to know about stories such as these because we are just too stupid to believe anything but what filmmakers want us to believe. Assholes. I find that insulting both for me and for everyone else in the world that happened to make it through each day without someone holding our hand and wiping our butts. You’ve got to be kidding me.
The court system in America is broken. It has gotten away from us, become a living organism in and of itself. It caters to ego, is tainted by its power, and cares for justice very little. Without Courts of Last Resort, or that is, taking these cases and bringing them into the living rooms of John Q. Public, there is no way to motivate large numbers of regular American citizens to ask questions, demand answers, and if warranted, expect injustices to be righted. We are not stupid. We’d rather live on our feet, not die on our knees.
I never use my blog to ask for anything, but if you feel the way I do, would you sign a petition to get this kid a new trial, preferably in a different state, with a genuine expectation that what is heard is the evidence instead of the whispers of powerful egos and power-corroded shitheads sitting on the bench?
There are 181 petitions on change.org for Brendan. I’m signing them all. I hope you do too.