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Making A Murderer

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This topic is basically an extension of the Aftermath topic; discussion for what happens after the show. Unfortunately, you will likely be spoiled for the actual show in this topic; short of having a topic full of spoiler tags, it's going to be hard to prevent discussion of what happened in the series, but please be considerate of those who might still be catching up; if there's a big bombshell moment in the series that you are discussing, consider using spoiler tags so as to not ruin that particular moment for someone.

It's hard to remain unspoiled in the world these days!

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‘Making A Murderer’ Star Steven Avery’s Lawyer Drops ‘Biggest Evidence Bombshell’ Yet



Wrongful conviction lawyer Kathleen Zellner — featured in season two of Making A Murderer — has “bombshell” new evidence as she fights to free Steven Avery, 58, who is still serving life years in prison for first degree murder following the disappearance Teresa Halbach in 2005. Zellner now says that a newspaper delivery driver saw Steven’s nephew Bobby Dassey and another man moving her RAV4 vehicle onto Avery’s property and told the Manitowoc, WI County Sheriff’s Department about it in Nov. 2005. That information was never acted on, nor was the call’s existence provided to Steven’s defense team.

On Monday, Apr. 12, Zellner filed what’s known as a Brady motion with Manitowoc County court. Police and prosecutors are not allowed to hide exculpatory evidence that may be favorable to a criminal defendant, and she believes that is what happened with the delivery driver’s claims being buried in 2005. He has since signed a sworn affidavit that he notified the Manitowoc County Sheriff’s Office at the time of witnessing Dassey and his friend moving Halbach’s vehicle onto Avery’s property.


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I'm somewhat familiar with Laura Nirider, through her work for Damien Echols (one of the West Memphis Three), but didn't know anything about the Brendan Dassey case, or Steve Avery's, when this popped up as a Netflix recommendation recently.  A quick perusal of the cases brought up Nirider's name, so I decided to watch, even though I generally stay away from "true crime" programming as so much of it hideously over-simplifies complicated issues, cultivates unwarranted fear and suspicion, and exploits victims.

I'm glad I made an exception; I wound up inhaling the whole thing over a few days.  The filmmakers incorporated boring procedural stuff necessary to understanding the case's trajectory in an accessible and interesting way.  I wish they'd been a little braver in acknowledging Avery's unsavory characteristics, making the point someone can be gross, sexist, and even violent without that being justification for putting them away for something they didn't do. 

Any and all projects bringing attention to the demonstrable facts people do make false confessions, police do behave deplorably in interrogations and even plant evidence (whether out of malice or, more commonly, out of a tunnel vision belief they have "their guy" and the end justifies the means in making sure they can put him away), and DAs do act with virtual impunity are good things.  As long as this one was, though, it didn't fully explore how systemic this problem is - and didn't at all address the fact economic status isn't the primary vulnerability to such abuse, race is, and the exonerations of white people wrongfully convicted get more attention (in their quest for representation and in media coverage following exoneration) than those of their more numerous black counterparts.

But it did a decent job of showing how outgunned defense attorneys (other than the most well-heeled firms most defendants cannot afford) are compared to prosecutors, and how the ability to consult with leading experts and conduct examinations is a game-changer.  I also liked it drawing attention to the shitshow that is AEDPA; it's right up there with the PATRIOT Act and replacing AFDC with TANF on the list of egregious, far-reaching recent legislation.

And I wound up developing a serious intellectual crush on Kathleen Zellner.  I believe I'd read an article about her in a trade publication at some point, but there's not a lot of overlap - I'm a civil rights lawyer focused on women's rights cases, and the only post-conviction work I've ever done is specific to women convicted of killing their abusers prior to the change in the law allowing introduction of "Battered Women's Syndrome" as a defense - so I was almost totally unaware of her work.  That woman is fiercely intelligent, an astounding strategist, tenacious, and far more hands-on than anyone I've ever encountered at anything close to her level.  I'm so impressed!

It was interesting for Brendan's brother to emerge as a suspect, since I'd had a bad vibe from him at the trial.  Poor Barb, if it turns out the key to establishing one son's innocence is another son and possibly her husband having done it.

I wonder how that's worked out within the family so far.  Relations were already a bit tense, where Dolores seemed to care more about Steven than Brendan (since if Brendan hadn't fallen for the investigators' con, things might have been different), Barb seemed to care more about Brendan than Steven (since that's her son, and she was readily able to believe at times that Steven had done it and ruined Brendan in the process), and then Barb goes off on Kathleen after the filing, understandably -- but what do the other Averys, particularly Dolores and Allan, feel about this aspect of the strategy in attempting to exonerate Steven?  Kathleen has been in their home, and they trust her.  Is that still true after she incorporates into her advocacy for Steven an alternate theory that implicates not just a son-in-law but another grandson?

I kept waiting for poor Ma Avery to die as the film went on; when she was alive at the end, I looked Dolores up and, sure enough, she'd died without ever getting her son or grandson back.  That's sad.

I don't see a path to freedom for Brendan prior to his early release date, and, as talented as Kathleen is, I think the deck may be too stacked against Steven for even her to overcome.  But I'm glad I've been made aware of the case, and will keep an eye on it.

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