So my wife and I just finished watching this series on Netflix, ten parts, took us about a week. Anyway, there has been lots of talk about this show and since I’m now done with it, I thought I would give my two cents. So obviously spoilers for MAM from here on…
Alright. So first and foremost, the most important thing, are Steven Avery and Brendan Dassey guilty of the murder of Teresa Halbach. In my opinion, after watching the whole series, I believe that we just don’t have enough information on Avery to make a call, I’d say it’s about 50/50 at this point with just the information presented in the series, but I’m leaning toward he’s guilty. As for Dassey, I believe 100% that this kid is not only innocent, he was completely railroaded into his conviction.
First for my reasoning on Avery. I’m not sure, and we likely will never know to what extent, Avery was involved in this murder. From the little background info I have heard about Avery and what was presented in the series, it is my feeling that he is involved in some way. I’m not sure how Teresa was killed, but I think Avery was involved in some degree, how much, I’m not sure. However, I think the culpability of the Manitowoc County Sheriff’s Department is huge here. This series should have been focused more on how completely epic the Manitowoc County Sheriff’s Department fucked this case from the start. Comparatively, the police department I work for is probably more urban than there, but come on, we all go to the same trainings give or take, we draw from the same resources when drafting policy, you should not have fucked this investigation so completely and from every angle. The police work and investigation done in this case was laughable. Here are just some examples of how they fucked their crime scene: Victim’s vehicle is found – No crime scene log for hours, scene managed by the Manitowoc County Sheriff’s Department who was being sued by the suspect in the crime, Manitowoc County Sheriff’s Department was involved in every part of the investigation from start to finish while being sued by Avery and after “recusing” themselves from the scene, Manitowoc County Sheriff’s Department took point on the excavation of the burn pit where victim’s bones were found and did not utilize forensic anthropologists, Avery compound was under lockdown for something like 8 days while the police came and went and searched at will (WTF???), the needle hole in the purple-top blood vile, and finally, that Lieutenant…Lenk. This fucking guy. Not only was he involved in like every aspect of the investigation from the start, but he lied about his access to the victim’s vehicle, he found a “key” piece of evidence in an area thoroughly searched several times before after visiting the scene unsupervised, he found a second piece of key evidence in the garage (this guy is fucking super-cop), and was deeply involved in Avery’s first case where his conviction was over-turned (motive anyone?). All that is on top of the fact that his testimony in court gave every textbook nonverbal indication of deception and lying. My theory is this: Avery did it but did a pretty decent job of cleaning up as he had days to do so, the bone fragments in his burn pit being his downfall. The Manitowoc County Sheriff’s Department brass, still harboring resentment over being sued personally for Avery’s wrongful conviction, took it upon themselves to make sure Avery was convicted by any means possible. Planting blood, planting the car, planting the key…it all seems reasonable and you know why? Because their investigation was so piss-poor, they opened themselves up to it. Talk about having no confidence in your investigators. They likely would’ve gotten a conviction if nothing had been planted but they needed to be sure…Is my thought.
As for Dassey, oh man is this kid dumb. I don’t mean that in a negative way, I’m mean it in a way that should have been obvious to the investigators. A large part of my job is talking to and interviewing juveniles and I can tell you, you don’t interview a juvenile the same way as an adult, let alone a juvenile whose mental capacity is so clearly lower than average. The possibility of tainting the interview, making suggestions and repeated statements that will be misconstrued by the juvenile is much higher than with adults, even slow adults, because juveniles are much more inclined to want to please authority figures. Making suggestive statements like what was done in the March interview with Dassey and the subsequent phone calls he made to his mother after these interviews are evidence of that. I don’t think the interviewers set out to obtain a confession by any means from Dassey, I think they went into the interview thinking he was a victim like they testified to in court. I do think that they likely did not have a lot of experience interviewing juveniles and juveniles with diminished capacity, and unwittingly coerced a confession from Dassey. Not intentional, but clearly damning as he was found guilty and denied an appeal based almost solely on this confession.
The bottom line here is that I think if the Manitowoc County Sheriff’s Department had recused themselves completely from this investigation from the start and let another agency handle the investigation properly, not only would this series not exist, but the controversy surrounding it would likely not exist as well. I believe that Avery would still be in jail, convicted on solid evidence not tainted by the specter of police tampering and Dassey would be a free man, never once having stepped into a jail cell.
While the series was clearly presented with an Avery/Dassey tilt to it, I feel we got a pretty clear picture of what happened to Teresa Halbach and boy, was that compelling television. Bravo Netflix and bravo to Laura Ricciardi and Moira Demos, the writers/directors.