“We could all say that we’re never going to commit a crime. But we can never guarantee that someone will accuse us of a crime. And if that happens, then, you know, good luck in this criminal justice system” – Jerry Buting, Steven Avery’s lawyer
(Mild Spoilers Below)
Imagine that you are accused of a crime you did not commit and spent the next 18 years behind bars, only to be released and after a couple of years of freedom, you are back in jail again for a different crime. In a nutshell, that is the life of Making A Murderer‘s main subject, Steven Avery. In a gripping tale of the true crime genre, directors Laura Ricciardi and Moira Demos condense 10 years of footage into a 10 hour docu-series, and while it might not have the flare and massive production like other Netflix shows, it manages to keep you glued to the screen, wondering how this man’s fate seems to be in jail, one way or another. Supported by footage, newscasts, recorded phone calls and interviews, the documentary does not need a voiceover to guide the story, instead all of these conversations carry the story, having a grim, small-town feel.
In the opening scene, we meet Steven Avery, a Wisconsin man that was wrongfully convicted for the sexual assault and attempted murder of Penny Bernsteen, going back home to his family after DNA evidence proved his innocence 18 years later. A year after his release, Steven files a $36 million lawsuit against the Manitowoc County Police Department and officers that were involved in his case. Just when it seems like everything is going the way it’s supposed to be, only missing the last 2 depositions of Steven’s lawsuit, things take an unexpected turn when there is a missing woman by the name of Teresa Halbach that was last seen at Steven Avery’s property. How could a man that has been fighting for his innocence for so long and is so close to getting justice, murder a woman in his own home?
In order to understand Steven, we learn about the Averys, their business in the town and how the family has always been thought of as outcasts and were unwanted in the community. They lived in a land of over 30 acres in which the entire family kept to themselves, surrounded by their salvage yard. In the series, we discover Steven’s upbringing, in which he wasn’t the brightest student and had some brushes with minor crimes, but never a violent history related to the crimes he was convicted for.
Making A Murderer will make you feel for Steven’s family as they struggle after all these years to cope with both of Steven’s convictions and battle to show people that he is innocent and restore the family’s name in the community. It will make you feel for Steven’s attorneys, Jerry Buting and Dean Strang, who work endlessly to find a way to prove to the jury that the lack of evidence in Steven’s case should at least be considered reasonable doubt. You will begin to wonder if the Manitowoc Police Department really did frame Steven of the murder of Teresa Halbach, if they coerced his nephew Brendan Dassey into confessing a crime he didn’t commit, why the police didn’t go after any other suspects, and so much more.
If you have listened to the first season of Serial or watched HBO’s The Jinx, then Making A Murderer will make you bang your head against the wall after seeing an innocent man spend his life in prison. It will make you want to go and sign all petitions online that might get Steven a new trial. If you are like the majority of the people who looked up every single article related to Steven Avery online, talked to coworkers or friends endlessly about the show, then you should know that the documentary does miss out on some evidence which the directors were not able to show.
If anything, Making A Murderer does help make a case for Steven Avery to have a retrial, while shedding light on the criminal justice system’s shortcomings, ultimately making us wonder how to react if we were put in the same situation.