Making a Murderer
December 19, 2015 10:26 AM   Subscribe

Netflix's first true-crime series is a 10-part documentary series called Making a Murderer. It follows the life and trials of a man named Steven Avery who, in 1985, was wrongfully convicted for a crime he did not commit. After serving 18 years in prison, he was exonerated by DNA evidence. Two years after his release, and in the midst of a $36 million settlement with local law enforcement, Steven was arrested for another, even more heinous crime. The series is being compared to other serialized true-crime nonfiction like Serial, the Jinx, and the Staircase. You may also remember Avery's story from an episode of Radiolab.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates (34 comments total) 32 users marked this as a favorite
Whoa. This happened not far from me and I remember wall-to-wall coverage on the news, though I don't remember the specifics of the case. Can't wait to watch this.
posted by desjardins at 10:40 AM on December 19, 2015 [1 favorite]

Thanks for this! I've got a migraine and love true crime, 20 minutes in to the first episode and it's a fairly enraging case so far -- seems like it definitely benefits from more public exposure.
posted by Matt Oneiros at 11:57 AM on December 19, 2015

My husband and I watched this. I mean, all of this. There came a point (around episode three), where I couldn't imagine stopping, so we just kept going until it was done.

You start and you think, "Wow, this whole situation is really bad." And then it gets worse, and you think, "It couldn't possibly get worse." And then it gets even worse, and you're left sputtering and sobbing and fuming.

There are elements to this case.... shit. It makes me want to pull up my britches, get a law degree, and fight for the rights of the disenfranchised. But it also wants me to crawl in bed, pull a blanket over my head, and just cry for a couple days straight. Shit.

I wouldn't believe half of what happens in this documentary, if it were fiction. It's ridiculous, over the top, far-fetched. It's unbelievable, unacceptable. And it's real.
posted by meese at 1:28 PM on December 19, 2015 [20 favorites]

The timing if this is crazy for me. I just finished my first semester of law school and am waiting to hear if I'm accepted to participate in the Wisconsin Innocence Project. I'm sure I and everyone else at UW law will be pounding through this over break.

Also, it seems like awareness of these issues have really exploded since Serial. Suddenly relatives who I would never have expected it from are talking about wrongful convictions, mass incarceration, and reading Bryan Stevenson in book clubs.
posted by pugg at 3:26 PM on December 19, 2015 [7 favorites]

Thanks for the post! I didn't know about this and started it tonight!
posted by triggerfinger at 9:11 PM on December 19, 2015

Thanks. I saw StarWars this morning, read this post and just finished 10 hours straight binge-watching. Do you have any idea how much stuff I needed to do today??

Anyone else really creeped out by Theresa's brother, esp. when she was still missing but he was talking about grieving and moving on "...hopefully with Teresa in our lives", like he realised he was admitting he knew she was dead.

I found the lack of alternate narratives somewhat frustrating, and the question of how the body fragments got there seemed to be glossed over.

Anyway, as a huge fan of another long-form documentary (Capturing the Friedmans) that was also filmed over a decade, I loved seeing how the people evolved as the hopelessness just got worse and worse.
posted by saucysault at 10:25 PM on December 19, 2015 [2 favorites]

Thanks and I will have to tell my dad about this! It's sad and enraging though to know that things like this really happen.
posted by csong at 12:37 AM on December 20, 2015

I found the lack of alternate narratives somewhat frustrating

I was really surprised that the defense want allowed to offer alternatives. Is this normal? I thought defense attorneys would often suggest alternative theories about who did the murder, in an attempt to raise doubt about the defendant.
posted by meese at 11:19 AM on December 20, 2015

I finished the tenth episode earlier today, and it's still sinking in. The series seems more like The Staircase and Paradise Lost to me than The Jinx or Serial. While a gripping story, it's also clear advocacy for the accused/convicted. While I found it enthralling and infuriating, I'm also not sure what to think. This is clearly only part of the story. There must be more -- more about Steven's past, about the Averys in general, about other potential suspects. While 10 hours was quite a lot, it still wasn't nearly enough. I have so many questions, and I look forward to hearing/reading more about this case in the weeks to come.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 5:40 PM on December 20, 2015 [1 favorite]

I haven't watched all of it yet, but the issue of Halbach's voicemail bugged me. Wouldn't the phone company have logs to show exactly who accessed her voicemail and even the source of any potentially deleted voicemail messages?
posted by ymgve at 6:32 PM on December 20, 2015

Agree, ymgve. And who was calling her incessantly in the weeks before her disappearance? That info would have seemed to have helped either the prosecution or the defense, so it's strange is wasn't ever brought up at trial. Also, apparently one thing that was left out of the doc is that Avery called Halbach's cell phone three times that day, and twice used *67 to conceal his number. Also, he requested Halbach be the photographer, and used his sister's name (Barb Janda) when placing the first call.

To me, the 4:35 call is the most eyebrow-raising of the bunch. It would have been well after Halbach had left, if we believe the bus driver who said Halbach was there around 3:40. So either it was a butt-dial, or he was calling it for some other reason (for example, to find it).
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 6:43 PM on December 20, 2015 [4 favorites]

Even if this is only one side of the story, the most damning part for me is the blood vial and the bullet. How the hell can the tampered evidence seal and hole in the cap of the vial be anything but some form of foul play? And finding a bullet with the victim's DNA, but complete lack of any blood anywhere in the surrounding garage?
posted by ymgve at 7:03 PM on December 20, 2015 [2 favorites]

Wow, I'm only on the 4th epioside, but as if what they did to Steven wasn't bad enough, what they're doing to his nephew is goddamn immoral. I know being thankful for lawyers is an unpopular opinion, but the lawyers that help people like this are goddamn heroes.

When the criminal justice system, along with some of the corrupt and shitty officials that work for it, use their power to crush weak and/or vulnerable people it straight up makes me want to spit fire. Fuck all of those people.
posted by triggerfinger at 7:27 PM on December 20, 2015 [2 favorites]

what they're doing to his nephew is goddamn immoral.

That made me cry. It still makes me tear up. That poor boy, that poor poor boy.

And even worse is knowing he's not the only one. How many other poor children and men are locked up because they couldn't understand what the police were doing to them?
posted by meese at 7:53 PM on December 20, 2015 [10 favorites]

Here is a thorough longform article from May 2006. It includes a detail that I've seen in other articles, but was never mentioned in the documentary. On the night of Halbach's disappearance, Brendan Dassey's mom Barb noticed that his jeans had a white spot on them. Brendan told his mom it was due to bleach, and that he had been helping his uncle Steve clean Steve's garage. According to this article, it was Barb's mention of Brendan's bleached jeans that got investigators interested in Brendan. It also mentions that investigators "confiscated" Brendan's jeans. So they were likely introduced as evidence in one of the trials, but we never saw them in the documentary. And if they weren't introduced at trial, then why?
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 9:19 AM on December 21, 2015 [6 favorites]

Okay, I think I only got through the 5th episode last night (maybe only the 4th - I will finish it tonight) and I'm avoiding reading anything that may contain spoilers, so I haven't read any of the following yet, but I'm putting them here in case they have more details.

Vulture: What Was Left Out of Making a Murderer Episode One

True Crime Blog's entry on Steven Avery

Bustle also has a few articles on it: Where Is Steven Avery Now? The 'Making A Murderer' Subject Is Back Where He Started

What Does Steven Avery Think Of 'Making A Murderer'? His Family Established A Relationship With Filmmakers
posted by triggerfinger at 9:53 AM on December 21, 2015 [6 favorites]

Thru ep 2; what the ducking duck. Where to start? Right now it's this Simpsons-esque police interrogation about Halbach.

She's going to pop up back fresh from Vegas, I just know it.
posted by rhizome at 1:35 AM on December 29, 2015 [1 favorite]

The thing is, you can't bleach out blood. Crime labs know to look for that residue. I can't remember what, but there is a specific reside from bleaching away blood, invisible to the naked eye. There was nothing that indicated they found that. I suppose it could have been left out, but it seems unlikely.

The hip fragment in the quarry seems soooo suspicious. That and the poor way they excavated the burnt bones, essentially contaminating that site.

I am just shocked there wasn't a reasonable doubt.

Also prosecutor Ken Kratz. Smug asshole. I think under any other circumstances, I would have been pissed they put the texting scandal in as a way to bias us against him. But he was such an unlikable, smug ass, and unlike many things we saw, I don't think we could attribute that to editing. Harassing, injured, vulnerable women because your a dirty gross man. No.
posted by [insert clever name here] at 6:30 AM on December 29, 2015

Kratz spoiler.
posted by drezdn at 9:36 AM on December 29, 2015

The thing is, you can't bleach out blood. Crime labs know to look for that residue. I can't remember what, but there is a specific reside from bleaching away blood, invisible to the naked eye. There was nothing that indicated they found that. I suppose it could have been left out, but it seems unlikely.

Not to mention that this was a dirty garage that probably hadn't been cleaned in years. If anything, a cleaned spot would stick out more than any blood.
posted by ymgve at 6:28 AM on December 30, 2015 [1 favorite]

I thought they said on the documentary that if it had been cleaned, they would have expected to find no DNA but they did find DNA, except it was only Stevens.
posted by LizBoBiz at 7:47 AM on December 30, 2015

I wish this thread was split up by episode
posted by rhizome at 12:29 PM on December 30, 2015 [1 favorite]

Here's a fanfare post on the first episode (I don't think anyone has done any subsequent single episode posts), here's a fanfare post on the entire series.
posted by triggerfinger at 1:49 PM on December 30, 2015

Whoops, I thought I was posting in the series thread! Nevertheless, the episode thread pretty much ends with "let's all do this in one thread after we've watched the whole thing." Not a big deal, just saying! I can wait.
posted by rhizome at 2:00 PM on December 30, 2015

The terrible police work here is so very frustrating and IMO should be reason for serious reasonable doubt. All of the "best practices" that police are supposed to do are supposed to protect people from being railroaded and wrongly convicted and that's why police who do this don't care because if they don't like you for whatever reason then you deserve to be in jail whether or not it's what you're convicted of.
posted by LizBoBiz at 3:35 PM on January 3, 2016 [1 favorite]

Discover ID will be airing a follow up special. However, I recently happened to see that they had a different special this weekend called Killer in the Making: Steven Avery. I haven't watched it yet (I did DVR it!) but from the comments in the link it seems pretty one-sided, and not the in the direction of the documenatary.
posted by LizBoBiz at 6:29 AM on January 11, 2016

I watched Paradise Lost over the weekend and one thing I noticed was that the appeals were heard by the same judge that oversaw the trials. The same thing occured for both Brendan Dassey and Steven Avery. This seems like it would be a huge source of bias, especially because the judges seem to have decided that they all were bad people so from the start. Why does our legal system work this way? Do you think changing things so that a different judge hears the appeals would help those who have been wrongly convicted? Is this something that can be changed?
posted by LizBoBiz at 7:06 AM on January 11, 2016

My husband and I are watching this now-- we are half way through. One of the most frustrating aspects is that all of the lawyer dramas I've watched and all of the detective novels that I have read in my life have not prepared me for how murky, how half-assed law and justice are in real life. Brandon's first lawyer is so horrible, I'm just aghast. He basically sets Brandon up and hands him over to the police to be questioned without ever arranging to be with Brandon. What defense lawyer would ever think that is a good idea? And what is this nonsense from the judge that Avery's lawyers are not allowed to offer up other suspects? Isn't that the basis for every courthouse drama on TV? I would love to sit down and watch this show with a defense lawyer because I have so many questions.

I keep imagining this story as rewritten by John Grisham and I'm pretty sure I would be a lot happier about the outcome.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 4:56 PM on January 15, 2016

It would inevitably make more sense.
posted by rhizome at 5:16 PM on January 15, 2016

And what is this nonsense from the judge that Avery's lawyers are not allowed to offer up other suspects?

I don't know, this seems kind of logical to me and didn't they say it was part of Wisconsin law? How can you accuse someone when they can't defend themselves? If you didn't have proof that the person did it, wouldn't it be slander? (If you did have hard proof, then theoretically the prosecutor would go after that person and/or the judge would throw out the case against your client. I don't honestly think the judge was in on some vast conspiracy.)
posted by desjardins at 8:12 AM on January 16, 2016

Yeah, iirc, if they had wanted to offer up other theories they had to be able to provide something more than just speculation. Of course, due to the police not really ever investigating anyone else, they had very little hard evidence on alternate suspects that they could use to build up a different scenario...
posted by triggerfinger at 12:47 PM on January 16, 2016

Anybody catch Dr Phil Friday or today?
posted by rhizome at 2:51 PM on January 18, 2016

« Older An end to the conversion therapy flat earth...   |   Fluffin' the holiday squees-un Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments