It has been quite sometime since I have written a review or discussed my opinions on films, movies, shows, documentaries and other things. Primarily I was focusing on theatre for the majority of last year, then I was spending a lot of time working, and then I began work on several writing and editing projects. However, I have decided to start posting reviews again, and I feel like a great place to start is with Making a Murderer. There has been quite a bit of buzz around the show and I am going to discuss the merits of the documentary and my thoughts about the case itself. Please note, I have very minimal background knowledge about crime, laws, and procedures associated with trials, so if any information I provide is incorrect or flawed, I apologize. I am by no means a professional in this field and I am merely sharing my perspective about the whole situation.
With my reviews (as far back as I can remember) I would begin with discussing my perception of the overall merit of the piece (cinematography, pacing, overall story, etc.). Therefore, that is where I will begin with this my thoughts on Making a Murderer. For a production that was released in 2015, I was not overly impressed with the quality of the film itself. I needed to remind myself that most of the footage was shot around ten years ago, when the trials were going on, but about 90% of the footage was at a lower resolution and I think more current footage could have been spliced in. It was not a huge issue, but it felt like my eyes were not well adjusted to the screen.
I felt like the ten episode docuseries could have been condensed down a little bit. Quite a bit of the footage was repetitive and several segments could have been shortened with text like they did at other moments throughout the documentary. The benefit of the longer run time, in my opinion, was that it let the audience become more sympathetic for the Avery family and relatives. Personally, I felt quite awful for Steven Avery’s parents, and had they not included all of those moments with them, I may have never felt that way.
Now there are a few things I want to discuss about the show, so if you’re interested in whether I think Steven or Brendan are innocent or guilty, skip below to the bottom of my review for my specific thoughts on both of them (I will bold it).
One of the worst things that I think happens during any type of criminal case is that family of the accused are targeted by the press, media, and upset citizens. I personally do not care whether a person is found innocent or guilty, I think it is wrong to attack the families of accused or convicted felons. There have been plenty of cases of a terrible upbringing leading to someone becoming a criminal, but that doesn’t mean people should send nasty notes or death threats to the parents or siblings of the accused. It is despicable practice and if anyone does it, they should be ashamed.
A frustrating aspect of the entire case was that the state was not held accountable for the initial imprisonment. While I think the 36 million dollar settlement would have been a bit much, I do think that Avery and the others involved should have received more than the 400,000 dollars that they received and more action should have been taken against those that did not perform their respective duties in the manner that needed to be done. An innocent man spent 18 years in prison for a crime he did not commit, because of a faulty justice system that was more concerned with revenge over following the appropriate actions that were supposed to have been taken. As well, I think it is absolutely ludicrous that people involved with his rape case and the lawsuit against his wrongful imprisonment were allowed to be part of the homicide case. I do not know how much it holds up in courts, but there clearly would have been a conflict of interest no matter how unbiased the officers claimed to be.
I think most people who watch the series would say the four most despicable men involved are Mark, Fassbender, Len, and Ken Kratz. From the perspective of the docuseries, it seems that Mark and Fassbender coerced a confession out of Brendan. The two men kept telling him to “be honest” any time that he answered until he gave an answer that they deemed satisfactory. Len, who was meant to defend Brendan, essentially threw him under the bus and did very little to actually help him. Instead of trying to prove his innocence it seemed like he was more interested in Brendan accepting a guilty plea or finding him guilty. Either situation would have helped in the Steven Avery trial and would have added more evidence against him. My personal least favorite person during the trial was Ken Kratz. His unbearable voice made me want to switch on closed captioning and press mute whenever he appeared on screen. However, it seemed he approached the trial in an unprofessional manner and I feel he released details of the case before the trial, and that could have lead to a tainted jury.
My thoughts on the two of them:
Steven Avery – Inconclusive
Brendan Dassey – Innocent
Due to evidence provided in the documentary, I do not think there was enough evidence to convict Steven Avery of murder. The biggest thing that I think the prosecutors had against Avery was the blood in the Rav4. If the tests would have came back having said that the chemical from the test tube was in that blood, I think that would be the proof I need to say he is completely innocent. Everything else, in my opinion, should not have held up in court. With the key, why would it have only his fingerprints on it and none of Teresa Halbach’s? The DNA from the bullet was tainted by the lab technician that was looking at it. The fact that very little of her blood was discovered on the site just seems incredibly unlikely. Nothing against Avery or Brendan, but neither man seemed intelligent enough to think to be that thorough when cleaning. In general, it seemed like the majority of the factors that comprised his conviction were based on circumstantial evidence. The main question remains, if he didn’t do it, then who did? That is where I think the police failed in both cases against Steven Avery. As mentioned in the film, the prosecutors had “tunnel vision” and seemingly went only after him. I just feel like there is not enough tangible evidence to necessarily say he did or did not commit the murder.
For Brendan, I think he was given a corrupt lawyer and at least deserves a retrial. As far as I remember only his testimony placed him at the crime scene. I could be wrong, but none of the physical evidence provided in the series tied him to being associated with the crime. Without seeing his entire interrogations, it appears that he was lead to make the confessions that he did and the investigators took advantage of a teenager who did not have the mental capacities to realize the gravity of the situation.
All in all, I think it is a good watch. It might be a bit boring to those who are not really interested in watching court cases. However, it shows the plight of an accused man, and more often than not, people don’t really get this perspective in this type of situation. If anyone reading this saw the original trial and then saw this show, I would love to hear if views have changed after watching this. Also, if anyone wants to comment, I would love to have a conversation about your thoughts on the case. I do think the docuseries is biased by focusing more on his innocence than showing a middle ground, but nonetheless it is a thought provoking show and had already engaged quite a huge number of people. Only the future will show whether more of this case will unravel and we will get more of a definitive answer of who the culprit was and if either man will get a second chance.