Since becoming a Netflix-er, I have splurged on documentaries ranging from alien abduction conspiracy theories to scientific studies about steroid usage in the sports entertainment industry. I have watched it all, maybe even twice, but by far the best criminal drama documentary you cannot “Netflix and chill” to is Making a Murderer. Instead of necking, you and your partner will be on the edge of your seats binging on this ten-episode series that details the alleged injustice received by Wisconsin native Steve Avery.
There is a lot of hype surrounding this docuseries that, at first, I wasn’t sure I wanted to watch. Based on the title of the series, and not knowing anything about it, I assumed that it would be about how someone grows up to be a murderer; not an original idea and one that always plays out the same.
Don’t be mislead by the title like I was, this docuseries has nothing to do with how one follows a path to be a murderer. Instead, it’s about how one can be made to look like a murderer based on how the criminal justice system is setup (seriously, no pun intended). What’s chillingly-intriguing about this series is how easily you, or I could find ourselves in Steve Avery’s shoes.
In 1985, at the age of 23, Mr. Avery was convicted of raping an affluent, church-going resident of the community. From the on-set, the deck was stacked against the underprivileged Mr. Avery who was helping to run the family-owned salvage yard. At the time of his arrest, he was a father of five who didn’t have a clean criminal record; which included viciously torturing a cat and burglary.
In fact, earlier in 1985, he threatened his cousin by running her off the road and pointing a gun at her. Mr. Avery claims that his cousin was spreading rumors about him and that’s why he did what he did, but why he didn’t handle it differently is anyone’s guess. Bottom-line: it was a dumb idea, but as the series shows, Mr. Avery does a lot of dumb stuff when he’s mad.
The way the documentary is presented it pinpoints Mr. Avery’s altercation with his cousin as the cause of all his troubles with the law enforcement from that point on in his life. Remember when I said Mr. Avery does dumb things, well his cousin was married to a Manitowoc County sheriff’s deputy. Pissing off a law enforcement husband is probably the last thing anyone should do, or want to do.
Going back to the rape allegation Mr. Avery was convicted of committing, the Manitowoc County Sheriff Department had Mr. Avery on their radar because of what he did to his cousin. When the rape victim described her assailant, it sounded a lot like Mr. Avery to those within Manitowoc County Sheriff Department, but Mr. Avery had receipts and alibis to show that he was not where the crime occurred. Regardless, the Manitowoc County Sheriff Department singled out Mr. Avery (through some very questions means) as the rape victim’s assailant. Shortly thereafter, Mr. Avery was convicted of the rape and sentenced to jail.
For eighteen years, Mr. Avery fought his conviction from his jail cell (with the help of the Wisconsin Innocence Project) and was eventually exonerated from committing the rape through DNA testing. The exoneration and the facts of the case that came out after Mr. Avery was release painted the Manitowoc County Sheriff Department in a very, very bad light. So bad that Mr. Avery filed a lawsuit against the department for wrongfully prosecuting him when so much evidence pointed in the other direction. As you can guess, the Manitowoc County Sheriff Department, and Manitowoc County law enforcement in general, looked like a bunch of ass-hats trying to screw a football after Avery’s release.
Subsequent to Mr. Avery’s release, he became a poster-child of the Governor and other political representatives of what happens to an innocent man when he faces a criminal justice system where the odds are stacked against them. It is at this point in Mr. Avery’s life where things get pretty interesting.
Due to the political backing he received, a proposed law (The Avery Bill) was introduced by the Wisconsin government that bring much needed reform to some areas of the criminal justice system. Additionally, Mr. Avery’s lawsuit against the Manitowoc County was gaining ground and it appeared that Mr. Avery was going to win a windfall payout of $36 million; to a disadvantaged Mr. Avery, it would be like hitting the Powerball.
As fate would have it, Mr. Avery’s luck ran out once again as he was accused of murdering Teresa Halbach shortly after the lawmakers instituted The Avery Bill, and Mr. Avery was getting closer to receiving his Powerball-like payout. Not just any type of murder though, but a murder so vicious, so heinous, it makes the movie Se7en look like a Pixar movie.
The twists and turns that take place after Mr. Avery’s arrest are absolutely, freaking crazy. The way the docuseries is presented it appears that evidence was planted, tampered with, and possibly fabricated to ensure that Mr. Avery was convicted of murder. At the end of it all, the one thing that stood out was that Mr. Avery had absolutely nothing to gain by committing the murder, but that Manitowoc County (and those that were working for the County Sheriff Department that were involved in Mr. Avery’s rape conviction) had everything to gain. Think about it, the law enforcement community that you are suing for wrongfully prosecuting you (whom you’ve made to look like fools) is now investigating you again.
I’d encourage you to watch the docuseries, and read the articles that have been circulating on the Internet about some of the facts that didn’t make it into the series to make your own conclusion about Mr. Avery’s guilt. Regardless of whether or not you think Mr. Avery did it, the docuseries sheds light on how much more reform our criminal justice system needs. CRR gives Making a Murderer a 10 out of 10 lost car keys (when you watch the series you’ll get the reverence, trust me).
Below you can watch the first episode for free on YouTube.