Most people have seen or at least heard of Steven Avery, especially in the past few months when Making a Murderer shot to popularity. The docuseries now has a dedicated following of people all over the world who were left foaming at the mouth at the end of the binge-worthy Netflix show, and Avery now has some very impassioned supporters from all corners of the globe.
For anyone that doesn’t know, Steven Avery is currently serving a life sentence in prison after being convicted of a murder that many people believe he didn’t do. Avery was in the midst of a lawsuit for a previous wrong conviction which saw him holed up in prison for eighteen long years for a sexual assault he had nothing to do with when he found himself in the centre of a homicide case. The officers whose names were brought into question after his wrongful conviction were, coincidentally, also the ones heavily involved with the murder of Teresa Halbach for which Avery has been incarcerated, and so their motives have been questioned. When you watch the series it seems more and more likely that someone has set Steven Avery up in a bid to get him put away and once again the state and the justice system has failed him.
But what if that’s not true? As unlikely as it seems that a man who’s just got his life back and is due a very hefty sum of money in compensation would go out and murder an innocent woman in cold blood, we don’t know for sure that he didn’t. There are so many ifs and buts, and so many questions that still need answering even after 24 years that it’s impossible to know either way.
If you’re a social media user like most of us you will no doubt have seen articles posted here there and everywhere about new evidence being found and new conspiracy theories being made up by avid watchers of the show. The evidence is sometimes in Avery’s favour but sometimes pertains to him being guilty all along. In fact there are a number of pieces of evidence apparently left out by the filmmakers that seem to prove that Steven Avery did kill Teresa Halbach. But on the other end of the spectrum we also keep seeing new evidence that seems to further prove Avery’s innocence, such as Teresa Halbach’s seemingly fudged autopsy report that doesn’t quite add up.
All in all it is impossible to know one way or another just yet whether Avery is guilty or not. Yes it would be difficult to believe a man who’s just got his life back after an 18 year wrongful incarceration but when do murderers and criminals ever seem to make any sense in what they do?
I am on the fence about the Avery case although I, like many watchers of the show, do believe he is innocent. However, I also try to keep my wits about me. Here we have a docuseries produced by filmmakers who are unabashedly *for* Steven Avery. They support him and firmly believe he is innocent. They have selected what evidence they want to show and what they want to leave out. They have interviewed key people who are also on Steven Avery’s side but left out many opposing views. Like with any documentary, Making a Murderer presents one side of the story in all its bias and sets out to make the audience feel a certain way. Clearly they’ve succeeded but it is important to remember that they have deliberately (and cleverly) made the series in such a way that it persuades you to come around to their way of thinking and that is why so many people having watched the series now adamantly believe that Avery is innocent. The evidence and accounts selected to be shown in the series don’t add up and while they do seem to paint the picture of a set up in which Steven Avery is innocent it is important to recognise that a lot of evidence and accounts (like the account of the detective who commented how clean and recently bleached Avery’s trailer was on inspection) were left out; we still aren’t seeing the whole story and therefore it’s impossible to be 100% definite with whatever conclusion we draw.
Making a Murderer set out with an agenda; to try and prove Steven Avery’s innocence and get the world on his side. It succeeded, for the most part, and is an example of very good documentary making. The issue is that now millions of people have drawn conclusions and opinions that they are dead set on. Those that believe he’s innocent are up in arms and incredibly impassioned about the whole case and for that reason we’ve got people all over the place digging up new evidence and coming up with theories. The evidence is getting looser and looser with people picking up on the most trivial things and clinging onto them for dear life and people are starting to believe theories to be the truth. Judgement has been clouded by a very clever and persuasive docuseries and people are now investing in Avery’s case on a personal level that forces them to abandon much of their reasonable judgement.
The phrase don’t believe everything you read applies to television too; you shouldn’t always believe what’s presented to you in a piece of media because that media does have an agenda and it will leave out key information and select only the bits that prove its case. If the filmmakers want you to believe something, they’ll make you believe it to the best of their ability even if it means they have to mediate the truth.
I’m not saying that I think Avery is guilty; quite the opposite in fact, but it’s important to maintain judgement and remember that what you’re watching is a construct that has been designed to sway your opinions. Making a Murderer has sent people crazy and the case is very much up in the air still. People are trying to prove what happened one way or another and people are clinging onto any little bit of evidence or any theory they can find to support their belief and this is a pretty dangerous game. What if he did do it? There clearly isn’t enough evidence yet to release him so there is a chance that he did murder Teresa Halbach. But what if he didn’t? He has lost a further 24 years of his life in prison and if he is innocent after all of this that is a heinous act on the states part. If a man who previously lost 18 years of his life to a wrongful conviction has now lost a further 24, his reputation and his entire life is ruined. Now in his fifties, Steven Avery has spent more time behind bars than he has living his life a free man and if he truly is innocent again, that is horrendous.
At the moment no one knows for sure what the answer is even though people the world over have very strong opinions either way. Many people who have watched the show and now adamantly believe Avery to be innocent hadn’t heard of him or his case prior to watching (I know I hadn’t) so the series was at an advantage with many of its viewers because they didn’t already have any preconceived ideas or knowledge of the case. It is important to remember all this because ultimately it would be quite easy for a documentary to convince people of Steven Avery’s innocence given the circumstances. A big part of me believes he’s innocent but there is a part of me that’s sceptical about all of it.
With people still looking for evidence and fighting Steven Avery’s corner, hopefully our questions will be answered sometime soon. I guess the docuseries has done a good job in getting people to continue talking about it so that one day hopefully we will know for sure whether Avery is guilty or not, however I just hope that it hasn’t caused people to lose judgement and act impulsively because it is still a very serious case; let’s not all lose our minds over it!