Probably best not to venture beyond this point if you haven’t finished the show.
That’s not a click-bait title. That’s not exaggeration. It is by far the most frustrating show I’ve ever watched. The 10-part documentary hosted by Netflix starts with the story of Steven Avery, a man convicted in 1985 Wisconsin for a rape he didn’t commit. Then 18 years later, he was finally exonerated for it.
That’s just the beginning of this unbelievable — as in, it’s hard to believe this all actually happened, you can’t script this stuff — tale. There were many times throughout my binge of the show where I had to just pause and stew. Pause and stew with blood boiling. Or mouth agape. Or elation. But mostly frustration. And anger. And disdain. Utter fucking disdain.
After the first episode or two, I wondered how’d they get ten parts out of this. But the filmmakers, Laura Ricciardi and Moira Demos, worked on the documentary for the last 10 years and it shows: it’s an exhaustively researched and well-presented piece of film-making with twists and turns that are unbelievable.
The film even has a “villain.” That would be Ken Kratz, the special prosecutor and district attorney of Calumet County, Wisconsin. First off, look at this punchable face:
Then listen to his slimy, infuriating voice at about the 56 second mark:
Maybe it helps to see the show to see why he has such an infuriating demeanor and voice and face and disposition.
After getting out for the 1985 false conviction, Avery sues Manitowoc County and officers James Lenk, Andrew Colborn and others, like Denis Vogel, the Manitowoc County District Attorney, regarding that false conviction at the tune of $36 million.
Well, before that is settled, he’s arrested for the murder of Teresa Halbach’s murder, a 25-year-old photographer whose burned body and vehicle was found on his property.
I’m not going to rehash the entire 10 episodes here, but it’s worth mentioning two more things:
1.) Avery’s lawyers, Dean Strang and Jerry Buting, Avery’s defense attorneys are absolutely incredible. They are comprehensive, brilliant, humble and insightful. Man, these guys give me hope. That they are there helps me to not despair too much about how much of an uphill battle we face in correcting the systemic issues involved in the criminal justice system.
2.) Avery’s 16-year-old nephew, Brendan Dassey, a kid that’s clearly cognitively behind, is coerced into a confession by officers Fassbender and Wiegert into saying he helped his uncle kill Teresa. The confession tapes are some of the most disturbing content I’ve ever seen in my life. Dassey has no idea what’s going on or the seriousness of the situation. And it’s obvious as fuck he has no idea what actually happened to Teresa. It’s Fassbender and Wiegert that volunteer the crucial information.
I wish I could show my blood boiling.
Even worse than those tapes is when the DEFENSE ATTORNEY for Dassey originally, Len Kachinsky hires a private investigator, Michael O’Kelly, to get a guilty confession out of Dassey. They are clearly in league with the prosecution and the video there — of O’Kelly trying to get Dassey to confess — is sickening. Absolutely blood-boiling, vomit-inducing sickening.
Even worse than that somehow is when O’Kelly is called to the witness stand during the trial and reads an email he wrote where he wants to bring the entire Avery family down because they’re sinful and he wants to “erase the entire genetic line” of the Avery family.
Modell at A.V. Club:
The kid has no idea what the consequences of his actions might be, and not only does the system not care, it actively asks him to implicate himself. He thinks he’s heading to sixth period to turn in a project, and later he just wants to watch WrestleMania. His heartbroken mother knows, and listening to their phone conversations is gutting.
Hearing that WrestleMania line, as a wrestling fan, was heart-breaking.
I will never, ever understand how a 12-man jury, respectively, for the cases of Avery and especially Dassey were able to convict them of murder. Or how the judges, the appeals court and the Wisconsin Supreme Court believed in these convictions and that they were conducted fairly. It’s absolutely mind-blowing to me.
How can anyone watch those Dassey confession tapes or listen to the prosecution’s arguments and think beyond a reasonable doubt, Avery and Dassey killed Teresa? Once again, there’s only circumstantial evidence. There’s no physical evidence.
The prosecution says Avery killed her in his garage. But in the confession tape by Dassey, he talks about a savage murder involving much blood. Yet, they found no blood. No DNA.
And my god, the corruption of the police…the Manitowoc County Sheriff’s Department were supposed to be nowhere near this case given the conflict of interest (Avery suing them in civil court for $36 million), yet they, especially Lenk and Colborn, were all over this case and found the incriminating evidence.
There’s a part in the doc where Buting is interviewing Coborn and Lenk and it just completely falls apart. Coborn can’t explain how he called in Teresa’s license plate two days before her car was officially found. Lenk can’t explain his log-in times at the crime scene.
Not to mention the vial of blood used in the 1985 case had a syringe hole on the cap. WHY WAS THAT THERE?!
Moreover, the Manitowoc Sheriff, Kenneth Peterson, said this on LIVE television:
I mean, what?! That’s astonishing to say.
It’s just crazy Avery and Dassey were convicted. The state of Wisconsin took 18 years of Avery’s life and now they’re looking to take the rest of it. As for Dassey, they’ll take the rest of his life, too. He was only 16 at the time.
Most murder victims knew their murderer. According to the FBI, 80 percent of the victims knew their murderer. It’s why the investigation almost always starts with the spouse and family members and friends and ex-boyfriends. Except if you have tunnel vision on prosecuting Avery for the crime, apparently.
They never looked at Teresa’s family members or her ex-boyfriend. Or other people she may have known. Her ex-boyfriend definitely seems shady to me. He somehow got her passwords. He was intimately involved in her search party and had access to crime scenes the normal civilian wouldn’t. He could have had motive — jealousy over her boy roommate — and he had known about Avery since it was big news.
Finally, there’s one big elephant in the room here. Forget for a moment the clear and weighty injustices against Avery, Dassey and the corruption at all levels of the criminal justice system in Wisconsin. Forget that. And consider the implication of it all: Teresa’s killer — the person that brutally murdered her — is still out there. And a family thinks the real killer(s) are in prison right now, justice served.
There’s so much more that could be discussed here. Like the clear violation of protocol handling the DNA swabs on the bullet they found in Avery’s garage. Or the shitty FBI witness testimony regarding the blood stains in the SUV. Or how wonderful Avery’s parents are for supporting him the whole way. Or the awesome intro music.
Or the appallingly manipulative press conference Kratz did using the details from the Dassey confession, which there is no physical evidence to support. And he didn’t even use Dassey as a witness in the Avery case.
Or how about how one of Teresa’s cousins somehow finds Teresa’s SUV on Avery’s junk yard property so fast? I can’t find a picture, but it’s a sprawling yard filled with cars and they found it that fast? Skepticism alarm bells.
As Modell at the A.V. Club said:
We know that all of the supposedly hard evidence found on Avery’s property—save perhaps the charred remains—were found by the two cops who have the most to gain by seeing him go back to jail. If it looks like a duck, and it quacks like a duck, you should at least get a mistrial.
Here, check out the trailer and if it doesn’t grab you, watch the first episode. I watched about 30 minutes one day. Then the next day I finished the first episode and was hooked by the second. I watched the next seven episodes in one day.