"MAKING A MURDER" REVISITED: PART II

ANOMALIES IN BOTH CASES STRIKE AT THE HEART OF OUR FAITH IN THE JUSTICE SYSTEM


PART II

I find the pushback against “Making A Murder” mysterious.  Why?  The documentary’s critics seem to be complaining that the documentary is biased, mainly against the police and the court system.   There are complaints that Ricciardi and Demos did not prove that Avery and Dassey are innocent.  And in Schulz’s case, the makers didn’t take into account the pain that the victims’ families have suffered from all three cases – Avery’s two and Dassey’s one.  They are, in truth, all valid criticisms.  

But all are really beside the point.  All documentaries have a point of view.  Even documentaries that are allegedly “objective” cannot avoid a “slant,” "a perspective" since the folks who create documentaries choose a topic initially because it sparks an interest in them.  Then too, like the ten year period involved in the making of  “Making A Murderer,” there is typically so much information that is available in the universe of documentary creation, editing must take place and what info is included and what info is excluded will alter the truth and reality of whatever topic the documentarians are chronicling.   Michael Moore, for example, makes no bones about what his point of view is in every single one of his hard-hitting creations.  

Why is it, then, that “Making A Murderer” should be held to a different standard?  Is it, perhaps, because the implications of Ricciardi's and Demos' work are so damning, so antithetical to our fundamental beliefs that our system of justice is fair, objective and even handed as to be unthinkable as a reality?   If true, this realization is one that we simply cannot countenance because this truth would essentially destroy one of the bedrock fundamentals of our entire social construct and the very basis of the creation of our Republic.   Donald Trump and Ted Cruz can jet around the country proclaiming how unfair and corrupt our government and its servants are, but we understand that they are politicians and will not be held to account for their indictments.  Except as they do not succeed in their political campaigns.  But no lives rest in Trump's and Cruz's political hands (at least not directly) like the lives of Steven Avery and Brendan Dassey whose lives do rest in the very hands of the public servants Trump and Cruz are so quick to demonize.

There is a seriousness inherent in the implications chronicled in “Making A Murdered” that transcends the blathering hype of politicians and tends to crack the enclosing shell of "fairness" and "justice for all" we so ardently protect as bedrock core values of our system of governance.  The documentary brings us uncomfortably close to this realization. 

Over the ten years that it took to make “Making A Murderer” and whether the creators switched from proving innocence to exposing the missteps of the justice system midstream, they have succeeded remarkably well in exposing the latter.  I have not seen the same level of analytical pushback directed against the authorities who were involved in this case, the biases, missteps and omissions that the Sheriff’s Department, the District Attorney’s Office, the Special Prosecutor appointed to try both cases, the judge and jury, and the documentary illustrates assorted anomalies in the actions of each of these participant quite clearly.
 

Here are a few of the anomalies that are, at best, troubling:

The Key:  Teresa Halbach’s car key was found in Avery’s bedroom in plain view after several searches (four, if I recall correctly) of his home (trailer).  I find it a bit odd that only his DNA was found on the key and none of the key’s owner, Teresa Halbach.  The implication, according to the prosecutors, is that the key was wiped clean.  But if someone is going to take the trouble of wiping a key clean of prints and/or DNA wouldn’t he be equally careful so as not to leave his own markers on it after he wiped it clean?

The Car: The Toyota RAV-4: Teresa’s car was found on the Avery property amidst literally hundreds of other cars on the 40 acre site.  It seems very odd to me that a murderer would store the victim’s vehicle on his own property.  Plus, Steven had access to a car crusher – he’d used it the day before Halbach's disappearance – so I have to ask why didn’t he use it which would have it much more difficult to locate the car.  Then, there is the odd camouflage that was used to “hide” the car (tree branches, tarps, car hood, wood panels) which made it even more visible since none of the other cars in that particular row of junked cars had such coverings. 

Brendan Dassey’s Confession:  The video tapes from the Special Investigator’s interviews (not the police, not the District Attorney, not the Special Prosecutor) could be used in a police training course on how to lead a suspect to make the confession you want.  It was that disturbing and seemed so out of bounds as to make the confession immediately bogus.  Plus, Dassey was interviewed on a murder charge without the presence of his court appointed defense attorney (who was later dismissed by the judge during the course of Brendan’s trial).  If someone is being charged with murder or an accessory to murder, wouldn’t the charging and investigating authorities want to make sure that the confession is neither tainted by coercion and manipulation nor risk being thrown out of court because the defendant wasn’t properly represented?  If you watch “Making A Murderer” I doubt that you will be able to come to any other conclusion than his confession is worthless.   Yet, Brendan Dassey was convicted of “intentional homicide” and now sits in a Wisconsin prison serving a life sentence.


The Blood:  This, I find, is one of the most disturbing of the pieces of evidence in Steven Avery’s trial.   Streaks of blood (the prosecution tested four) were found in Halbach’s RAV-4 and DNA testing proved that it was Avery’s.  Putting aside the violent manner by which Halbach was murdered (chocked, raped, throat slit, shot in the head) I can’t help thinking that given the amount of blood that should have been in the car and the presumption that the murderer cleaned up the blood stains, it’s seems odd to me that only a few streaks would remain.  One would think that even with a thorough cleaning of the car, blood residue would remain and could be discovered though fluorescein detection even though not visible to the naked eye.

The Tampered Blood Vial:  Plus, there is the unsolved mystery of Avery’s blood vial that remained in the State Evidence facility (secured, locked up) since his first trial but had been tampered with. When Avery’s attorney’s (accompanied by a prosecution representative) retrieved the evidence from the State Evidence lockup, they discovered that the outer and inner evidentiary seals had been sliced, a notation of 3/19/96 written across the inner broken seal, and the stopper had been punctured (syringe type puncture) something the company who did the original tests for Avery’s first trial stated they do not do.  The retrieval records showed that James Lenk, a Manitowoc County Sheriff’s Department Lieutenant, had signed the evidence package out.
Why?  For what purpose?  Is the date correct?  The retrieval date makes no sense since Avery was still in prison at that time.   Not to speculate, but any date could have been written on the seal no matter what the actual date of the retrieval might have been.  Then there are the sliced Evidence Tapes around both the outer and inner enclosing containers.  Then there is the tiny hole in the blood vial stopper.  Unless this sort of evidence tampering is common in Wisconsin, there are certainly a few critical questions that should be answered here.


Search of Avery’s Property:  Although in an effort to avoid “even the perception of bias” according to Special Prosecutor, Ken Kratz, a judge ordered that the investigation into Halbach’s disappearance and murder be transferred to an adjacent county and the Manitowoc County Sheriff’s Department have nothing to do with it except for supplying materials.  But, it was Manitowoc police who searched Avery’s property eight times (discovering the key on their fourth search) and it was Officer James Lenk who discovered the key laying in plain view in Avery’s bedroom.  Subsequent searches (eight) also tuned up a bullet fragment in Avery’s garage buried in concrete on the eighth search the day after Brendan’s confession.  Once again, it was Manitowoc County officers who discovered it. 

Evidence Connecting Avery and Halbach:  None.  Save for the key and the bullet fragment that went though a botched DNA analysis.   If you believe Dassey’s confession, and since the police conducted their eighth search of Avery’s property the day after his confession (at night) apparently they did.  But Brendan’s horrific description – choking, slitting the throat, cutting off the hair, chained to the bed, gunshot to the head – that was broadcast on television to the world at large would certainly have left more evidence that Teresa was in Avery’s trailer or garage.  It was, as Brendan detailed it, a bloody, violent, horrific assault.  But none was found.  Save on the bullet fragment half buried in the concrete floor.



The Jury:  Although Avery and Dassey’s trials were held in adjacent Calumet County, presumably to avoid prejudice, every single member of Avery's jury were Manitowoc County residents. 


The Investigation:  In an astounding reply of the events that led up to the wrongful conviction of Steven Avery in 1985, not a single person, other than Steven Avery, was investigated for Teresa Halbach’s murder.   Not one.  The police focused in on Steven Avery even before Teresa Halbach’s car and remains had been discovered.  This is exactly the same procedure police used in Avery’s wrongful conviction in 1985.

Prejudicial Publicity:  Thanks in large part to Smarmy Special Prosecutor Ken Kratz, there was probably not a single individual in the entire State of Wisconsin – much less Manitowoc and Calumet Counties – who did not believe that Avery was guilty of murder.  The performance of Special Prosecutor Ken Kratz (more about him tomorrow) on television has to be one of the more egregious of prejudicing of a case that I’ve ever seen.  I cannot recall single case in recent memory where the Prosecution in a case declared the suspect guilty much less declared the suspect guilty even before the start of a trial.   Maybe it's because Washington, D.C. has the largest concentration of attorney's on the planet and no Prosecutor or District Attorney would dare prejudice a case in this manner for fear of lawsuits and having their cases dismissed outright.  


And there are more.  Many more. 



NOTE: I wrap up my off-the-cuff analysis of "Making A Murderer" tomorrow.  (Unless, of course, the Washington Post Editorial Board sees fit to publish another ridiculous Editorial as they did yesterday.  OBAMA'S CUBA FAILURE )


MEANTIME, HAVE A GLORIOUS FREE, JUST AND DEMOCRATIC DAY!


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