Monday, December 28, 2015

sometimes reality is FAR more frightening than fiction

Over the last week or so,  Mr. Film Critic and I have been watching Making a Murderer on Netflix, a documentary series that is so disturbing that I

a) found myself wanting to throw things at the TV over how badly these cases were handled,
b) found myself yelling at said TV about the horrific  injustice of it all, and
c) found myself telling anyone who would listen that they need to see this documentary.

As noted by The Observer, here's the main thrust:

"First, the facts: Steven Avery of Manitowoc County, Wisconsin, was convicted of rape in 1985 and sent to prison, until DNA evidence exonerated him after 18 years served. Two years later Mr. Avery was arrested again, this time saddled with the murder of 25-year-old photographer Teresa Halbach. The problem? Well, everything. As the trial continued it seemed more and more likely Mr. Avery was, at the very least, on the wrong end of some shoddy police work. At the very worst, the murder of Teresa Halbach starts to look like a genuine frame job, a slippery slope that leads to a grand conspiracy by the Manitowoc sheriff’s department against Mr. Avery, one so sprawling and corrupt it would put True Detective first season to shame."

What you don't see in this brief summary is this: Avery was on the edge of potentially winning a lawsuit for the mishandling of his first imprisonment.  Here's the issue: things were looking very bad indeed for the sheriffs deputies involved in his first arrest and their depositions in the case were showing what idiots they actually were in terms of not even looking at other suspects, especially when another man, whose name was even passed on to the sheriff's department as probably having done the crime for which Avery was in prison, had been convicted of the same sort of crime earlier. The other guy was ignored because the cops had their eyes on Avery; ultimately DNA evidence cleared Avery after 18 years.  Sure enough, guess who was the true guilty party??? So -- here they are on the edge of a huge judgment and the insurers for the cops, the prosecutor and the judge involved were not going to cover if Avery won, so those involved were facing potential financial (and reputation) ruin.  How convenient it was, then, when Teresa Halbach turned up missing and lo and behold, her car was discovered on Avery's property, a family-run auto salvage yard.  From there things just slide from bad to worse as the same local cops (who were supposedly not even supposed to be anywhere near Avery's property because of potential bias and conflict of interest) "find" evidence that wasn't there (and since it wasn't there, it wasn't photographed)  in earlier searches performed by the neighboring sheriff's department.

I can't even begin to describe the horrors and "shoddy" doings of both the police and the DA's office  that were brought out in this series, but we were both appalled at what can happen when a person becomes a target of the local justice system and the police and prosecutors become proverbial pitbulls who won't let go, despite the lack of evidence.  It was absolutely frightening and the worse thing is that the people in the crosshairs were poor, not well educated, and probably had no clue that they had options.

I don't normally find myself wanting to scream during a television show, but this was just so gut wrenching and a real-life trainwreck of a case that I absolutely could not believe could happen in this country.  Or maybe it does all of the time and I'm just naive.



  1. You are right, real life is much scarier than fiction. I am not sure I could watch that series, but it seems very worthwhile.

    1. Trust me, it was one of the most anger-producing things I've ever seen. Larry kept wanting to look it up on the Internet to see how things came out, and I wouldn't let him. Very, very tough to sit through.

    2. Nancy, I don't subscribe to NETFLIX, but I have watched many 20/20 episodes, 48 Hours and even a few (dreadful) LMN real-life crimes, and you make some wonderful points in this post. In addition, a close friend of mine is married to a forensic specialist ( Ph.D)who claims the worst thing to happen in his field is the making and glamorizing shows of CSI, et al, and other books by authors we are all familiar with, as I don't want to mention specific names.

    3. I normally detest true-crime TV, because of the direction it's taken over the last few years. Discovery ID is off the viewing list except for the Vanity Fair investigates series, which has a few shows every years. I've discovered that these days it's way more about recreating hot sex and satisfying America's need for voyeurism than anything else -- serious reporting has pretty much gone by the wayside. So when I find a documentary like Making a Murderer (one of the film makers is an attorney, by the way) that oozes quality, doesn't do disgustingly gross and violent recreations and has a definite story to tell, then I'm on board.

  2. I avoid true crime shows like the plague, but I do see injustices all of the time in my city and others. For example, the Central Park 5 were incarcerated for years (Donald Trump called for their execution years ago) and were finally exonerated and released. Someone else confessed to the crime, but they were still held for awhile.
    A corrupt police investigator in Brooklyn was responsible for sending many innocent men to prison.
    Two men were released from prison in North Carolina after decades there, one on death row for nearly 30 years. Then they were released after good lawyers
    found evidence exonerating them.
    And Clarence Moses-El was just released from a Colorado prison after 28 years there for a crime for which there was no physical evidence. The victim had a dream that he assaulted her. Other prisoners collected $1000 so he could have DNA tested. The police had thrown out evidence that was labeled, "Do not destroy." So, he's out and has a new trial set. But, what an outrage.
    Watching a TV show about another real injustice would result in me throwing things and yelling at the TV.


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