Sometimes a show will impact the country by gathering most of us into watching. Sometimes a show will go beyond entertainment and drive us to change real life. Netflix’s “Making a Murderer” is doing just that. If its goal was to make us think about the justice process and whether or not convicted murderer Steve Avery is guilty or not… it has succeeded. If it is claiming an injustice was done and Steve Avery is innocent… well, there is still some doubt.
The story goes back to 1985 when Steve Avery was arrested for the rape of Penny Beernsten. Beernsten picked Avery out of a police line up and was sure she had picked out the right man. With her testimony, they were able to put Avery behind bars for the crime. The only problem was… Steve Avery was innocent. Eighteen years later, with the relatively new science of DNA testing on evidence from the trial, everyone discovered the DNA matched another man who was at that time, already in jail for another crime.
Avery was released to go back to his old life with many people apologizing to him with comments like: “We were so sure we had the right man.” Very comforting to a man who was robbed of almost two decades of life when most of us are starting to build one.
Of course an innocent man would want someone to make up for his losses. Avery lost a lot that most of us take for granted: a life of our own making. With lawyers in tow, Avery filed a petition to the court asking for $36 million dollars in restitution and damages. A trial date was set and the press ate up the victim’s story, describing the one-sided view of how such an innocent man could have been victimized so horribly. It was the opposite of the treatment Avery had received from the police during his conviction. Question is, did the press frame Avery as the innocent man the same way the police framed an innocent man 18 years earlier? There are still questions left off frame where the audience can’t see them.
While heading towards a settlement for years lost, a funny thing happened. Steve Avery was arrested for murder. Teresa Halbach was brutally raped and murdered. Evidence was found in a car on Avery’s property. DNA tied him and his cousin directly to the crime. After DNA had exonerated the innocent man, DNA was now accusing him.
Immediately, Avery and his attorneys cried foul. They claimed it was in response to Steve Avery seeking a civil judgment against the very police who had arrested and were trying him. Suspicious details started coming out. An Avery blood sample from a previous investigation was found possibly tampered with through a puncture hole where blood may have been drawn from the container while still in police custody. Could Avery be a victim of another frame?
Avery was found guilty and two years after being released from prison, was sent back for a life sentence. While many people hope this is the end to it all, many who support Avery cry out for a new and fair trial. When the Netflix showed debuted in December of 2015, his audience of support grew by many magnitudes. Money was streaming in to help pay for legal fees almost as fast as Netflix can stream “Making a Murderer.”
What does a guy have to do to get a fair shake? With all of the attention spawned by the Netflix original, imitators are springing up everywhere you look. How much of this income should go to benefit the man who suffered for their art?
Avery was quoted by a fellow inmate during his first incarceration of how he dreamed of being released from prison and building a torture chamber to pay back “all of the bitches” like the one who lied and sent him to prison. Did the whole miscarriage of justice back in 1985 create the Steve Avery of today that really did murder Teresa Halbech? Who really is responsible for “Making a Murderer?”