Innocent until proven guilty.
First off, there are some spoilers ahead for those of you who haven’t yet watched the Netflix series Making a Murderer. Here is the Wikipedia link to the series.
This is probably the first time I’ve ever felt so consumed about the subject of a TV show or film that I felt so strongly to write about it. I feel strongly compelled to voice my thoughts concerning the unjust manner in which Steven Avery and Brendan Dassey’s trials and investigations were handled, even if there is the chance, no matter how slim or great, that they are indeed guilty of their crimes. Remember: everyone deserves a fair trial, and that’s what this article is really about: these two people, as fallible and as human as the rest of us, did not get a fair and just trial. Because if there ever should come the day when we find ourselves in their position, and we are truly innocent, then we will be the ones wishing for a fair trial.
I just want to add my voice to the multitude out there in regards to how these supposedly “perfect” systems are anything but, and how seriously flawed they are, often prone to corruption and abuse of power. Something needs to be fixed or addressed, or perhaps we need to have a serious discussion about abolishing these systems and reverting back to a simpler life. But I’ll get more into that further down below.
I do not recall ever hearing about Steven Avery and Brendan Dassey until a week prior to the date of this writing when my wife and I first began to watch the Netflix series Making a Murderer (Season 1). As of this writing, we have yet to watch Season 2, but will undoubtedly do so not much longer after this article (and I’ll be writing another article after that).
So there we were one night, doing what many modern humans do at the end of their day: absolutely nothing. Mentally tired, we resorted to surfing the variety of programming available on Netflix. This particular title caught my eye as we scrolled through the list of documentaries, which we have been interested in more as of late, opposed to your typical movie or show. My wife, who basically is my only news source since I rarely pay attention to the news at all, asked if I heard about the story behind Making a Murderer because it was a real event. I responded that I don’t believe I ever heard about it or him (Steven Avery), so we gave it a shot. I’m beginning to wonder if that was a smart decision!
Here I am, having watched the complete first season and I don’t even know where to begin to describe the amount of disgust, anger, frustration and feelings of being powerless that I felt at all of the government officials involved at various times throughout the series. Not to mention the sadness I feel for Brendan Dassey, especially since both my wife and I have a child. Hopefully we, the viewers of the Netflix series who empathize and sympathize for the convicted haven’t been played, and our feelings are just and have merit. This is also a testament to the filmmakers for doing a fantastic job and for creating such a powerful piece. I feel the documentary was fair. If it were too biased or tried to make Steven Avery and Brendan Dassey look innocent when they were apparently guilty, then I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t have lawyers trying to take this to the Supreme Court in order to have them freed or retried. And I am pretty sure I wouldn’t be here writing this article. I feel like I am thirty years old again, back to the same ways I felt about government and capitalism which led me to delve into Anarchism. Besides, when you trust your intuition and gut, you can usually tell when someone or something feels right or wrong. And everything about the trials of these two individuals just reeks with wrongdoing.
I will try my best to convey my various thoughts on so many things related to what was revealed during the first season. Before I do however, I have to let you know that for awhile now, I have kept my head buried in the sand when it comes to politics and world events. I’ve seen and read enough over the past couple of decades, and nothing appears to ever get better. I’ve become somewhat of a part time misanthrope, but I do not hate people. Also, I feel as though we are not progressing in terms of being more just and fair. So, for long periods of time, I have simply “given up” and have escaped into all manners of entertainment in order to cope with all of the nonsensical actions that our fellow human beings partake in, most notably those that hold seats of power. However, over the course of October and the end of September, prior to watching MaM, I have slowly stopped “escaping” and have been living less in fantasy and more in reality. Again, maybe that’s something I ought to regret!
As you will hear me say from time to time here on my website, and just to let you know where I’m coming from, I was raised a typical white kid in the middle-class suburbs of Pennsylvania (west of Philadelphia) back in the 70’s. I grew up thinking the world was a perfect place run by perfect adults. That politicians, priests, nuns, teachers and parents were honest and could do no wrong. Boy, was I wrong! I hit my twenties and thirties and my third eye opened completely. My worldview began to expand as everything I was led to believe as a child was torn apart. I constantly found myself being amazed by the unethical behavior, corruption and abuse by those who are supposed to hold the highest seats of respect and power in our society: law enforcement, attorneys, judges, politicians and of course our presidents. So as I write this today, I am a cynical yet optimistic human being. I am well aware of all the horrible things that people are capable of, yet I also know all of the good that we are capable of as well. I may be a doubting Thomas, but I will also give people the benefit of the doubt. Hopefully, it’s the good that people are capable of that will reign triumphant for Steven Avery and Brendan Dassey before too long, and they will be set free.
After all, if we have police abusing their power, governments engaged in senseless wars, corrupt politicians, CEO’s engaged in illegal activities, then how do we have the arrogance and audacity to put anyone in prison, especially when so many others who are just as bad, if not worse, continue to live out their unethical lives in complete freedom!?
Are Steven Avery and Brendan Dassey truly guilty?
I don’t know, and no one will ever know besides Steven Avery, Brendan Dassey, those close to them, those involved in the investigation and the truly guilty parties. I’m not really here to discuss their moral innocence or guilt and play couch psychologist.
Based on all of the revelations in Season 1, they should not be in prison simply because of the lack of solid evidence and the way in which their cases and investigations were mishandled. They were not given fair trials. If you cannot give someone a fair trial, if you cannot 100% prove they are guilty without reasonable doubt, then you cannot convict them, even if they did it. That’s how it works!
Now, as far as how I personally feel about their moral innocence or guilt, I 99% believe that they are innocent. It would be irrational of me and almost hypocritical to sit here and say that they are 100% morally innocent because I was not there! I am not them! I do not know the real truth! None of us do! All we can do is speculate based on the information provided to us. No one will ever know what truly happened, besides those involved. So there is always going to be that small shadow of a doubt, that 1% chance that they had involvement in some way and that I could be wrong.
Morals, human nature, what people are capable of, are too much of an unknown and a grey area. We cannot and should not convict anyone because we think there is the possibility that someone might be guilty. We must rely on evidence. And as far as that is concerned, along with the coerced confessions, the possibility of the evidence being planted by someone, Manitowoc County being involved when it shouldn’t have been, how Manitowoc County was about to be sued by Steven Avery, leads me to believe that they are 100% innocent of the charges and should not be in prison. While there is reasonable doubt to their innocence, there is just as much reasonable doubt to their guilt, and that is why they should be freed. Case closed.
Thoughts on Steven Avery
I do not know Steven Avery. I didn’t even know he existed until a week ago (mid-October 2018)! I have never spent a second in his shoes. But based on season 1, I can’t help but to come away with thinking how he was possibly framed, either by the state or by the true perpetrators involved, even if Steven Avery himself were an accomplice in some manner. The officials involved seemed more concerned with proving he was guilty rather than his possible innocence. They did not appear to sufficiently pursue other possible leads. New evidence kept popping up that Manitowoc law enforcement coincidentally seemed to find, even after they were supposedly not to be involved in the investigations!
It seemed like a classic witch hunt. Like the State and others were trying to railroad him. Everyone vs. Steven Avery (except for those that truly love and support him).
I have my own suspicions and doubts when it comes to the slight possibility that Steven Avery might be guilty. I don’t want to start sounding like a conspiracy theorist, for one. But mostly because it doesn’t matter what I think about what may have happened regarding his guilt. Again: I was not there. I do not know the truth. I also have my own thoughts about his innocence, mostly based on what took place in the documentary. All that matters is whether or not he should be in jail, and based on everything that has taken place, it appears that he should be set free.
I am not going to comment on Steven Avery’s personal life simply because who are any of us to judge another human being? That’s what gets us into trouble in the first place. There are no saints among us! Just look up the controversy regarding Mother Theresa. Now, just because we are all prone to making mistakes doesn’t mean every single human being has committed a heinous crime. But it does mean that every human being has done something, and is capable of doing something that should prevent them from pointing fingers at others. That’s all. And that’s another thing we need to stop doing: pointing fingers and placing blame, when we rarely turn the finger inward to point at ourselves.
Thoughts on Brendan Dassey
What can I say? A then 16 year old who was known for having some cognitive and learning issues was apparently and obviously coerced into confessing to something he didn’t do because he was promised by the Manitowoc police investigators he wouldn’t be in trouble if he told “the truth”. Of course there is the possibility that he is guilty, but there must be sufficient evidence to prove it. And there appears to be even less evidence in Brendan Dassey’s case than in Steven Avery’s. All they have is an apparent false confession! No DNA whatsoever! No solid evidence! If I’m not mistaken. It’s ridiculous.
Aside from all that, how can you be so heartless to put a young kid, not to mention one like Brendan Dassey, behind bars for life!? Where is the humanity!? Is there not one empathetic person among us? Is that what we are? A mob? We want blood that badly? We want to see heads roll? Is that what matters most?
This was a young kid we are talking about. It’s just outright despicable. One of the more emotional moments was when he was being investigated by officers and he asked if he would be back to school by 1:29 as he had a project due for one of his classes. What kind of guilty criminal would even say that!?
If Brendan Dassey is truly innocent, which I 100% believe that he is from a judicial standpoint, and probably 99% from a moral perspective just like Steven Avery, then it is a tragedy and an outright shame how our judicial system failed him.
If he is truly innocent, he lost his life. He lost a chance to have a good life. Words cannot begin to express my disgust. And if he is truly guilty, to the possible extent of which I do not know, but based on his age at the time, he has served enough time and should be set free. But again, based on the lack of solid evidence, and the way his case and investigation were handled, Brendan Dassey should be free and financially compensated, in my opinion.
Thoughts on Theresa Halbach
As with almost any life that we lose, it is truly a shame and a tragedy what happened to her. No one ever deserves to be abused or murdered. I can understand a matter of someone losing their life during a moment of warranted self-defense, but senseless abuse and violence is always unwarranted. My deepest and sincerest heartfelt sympathies to the Halbach family. I hope that they will find some sympathy and empathy in their hearts to consider the possibility that Steven Avery and Brendan Dassey may be innocent, and if that’s true, that Theresa Halbach’s murderer may still be at large.
This is one of the frustrating, irrational, nonsensical and illogical aspects of our society’s justice system. To think that someone’s life can come down to what 12 randoms off the street think as to whether or not you are innocent or guilty. 12 randoms that are often less knowledgeable about the judicial system than the attorneys and judges involved! 12 random people who are as fallible as the person being convicted! These jurors are no different than you and I. They weren’t there! They don’t know the truth! They can only base their decisions on what was presented to them. Why even bother with attorneys and judges? Just involve the randoms from the get-go and let them make a decision. Hell, let’s just go back to rounding up the apparently guilty for a public hanging!
In regards to how the jurors found both Stephen Avery and Brendan Dassey guilty, I believe there were a couple jurors who were “bullying” the others and swayed everyone into handing over guilty verdicts.
We either need to find a better way to sentence an individual than relying on the verdict of 12 randoms, or we need to get rid of this antiquated system of someone’s life being dependent upon what 12 randoms think. It’s preposterous! In this day and age, we might as well get everyone in the world involved over the internet! I have felt that we needed to do away with jurors, and the entire judicial system, for decades, so this is nothing new for me. What took place in this documentary just reaffirms these convictions of mine.
This is just one reason that we need to end the prison system.
As I stated above, I believe we should abolish prisons, especially For-Profit prisons. That’s right, say it with me: for-profit prisons! I’m sitting here shaking my head at the complete absurdity and hypocrisy of such a thing existing in our society. The reason we need to abolish prisons is because humans are fallible animals and you cannot cure human nature. Human nature is what drives people to do what they do at any given moment and prisons are not preventing people from committing crimes. I’m not being emotional or irrational saying I want to abolish the prison system just because of this documentary. I’ve felt this way for a long time, dating back to the early 2000’s. And I’m not the only one.
You cannot cure human nature!
Prisons are a band-aid. What people need is empowerment. They need their lives back. They need education. They need community. They need to become self-sufficient and self-governing again and not have to rely on whether or not they can afford food or shelter. They need to be taught life skills. They need to live healthy, constructive, meaningful lives. And most importantly, those that murder and rape, those with serious mental health issues, need help, not prison.
Corruption & Wrongful Convictions
- List of Wrongful Convictions in the United States
- List of United States federal officials convicted of corruption offenses
- List of American federal politicians convicted of crimes
- List of federal political scandals in the United States
- List of American state and local politicians convicted of crimes
- From Wikipedia: Police corruption in the United States is not often reported on in the media, however cases of police brutality and corruption have been reported on, such as US police having faced killing charges have. Although not explicitly related to police corruption, a study identified 6,724 cases involving the arrests of 5,545 sworn officers across the nation between 2005 and 2011 for a variety of criminal acts. That is, on average, police officers are getting arrested around 1,000 times per year. 41% of the total crimes were committed while the officers were on duty. A breakdown listed five main types of crimes:
- sex-related police crime (1,475 arrest cases of 1,070 sworn officers)
- alcohol-related police crime (1,405 arrest cases of 1,283 sworn officers)
- drug-related police crime (739 arrest cases of 665 sworn officers)
- violence-related police crime (3,328 arrest cases of 2,586 sworn officers)
How Good Legal Representation is Available, if You Can Afford it
Once of the other frustrating aspects raised during this series is how in many cases the poor and uneducated often never get a fair or just trial, because they cannot afford good quality attorneys! That is outrageous. I am not saying that attorneys should work for free. This is just one of the problems I have with government and capitalism going hand-in-hand. One should get quality representation no matter whether you can or cannot afford it.
Thoughts on the Media’s Involvement
While I believe in freedom of the press, I strongly dislike what has become of the media over the last few decades. It’s all about the members of the media keeping their jobs, rising up in the ranks, making more money, generating ratings, looking like models, and creating sensationalism, than it is about doing what the press and media should be doing: reporting and performing honest journalism. There was a glaring example of the lack of this honesty by the media during a particular episode in MaM Season 1 where a reporter was talking about how they are competing for ratings. There you have it!
I raise this subject because the media should practice some kind of responsibility and should have some kind of integrity in not reporting to the general public things that are not proven, such as the most likely false, grim details behind the murder of Theresa Halbach. Maybe the media is different now, I don’t know. But if you do not have 100% proof of anything, if a verdict has not even been reached in a trial, you should probably err on the side of caution and not report things as fact. Especially knowing how it can influence a jury pool.
How Powerless We Truly Are
Watching this series awoken feelings of powerlessness in me that have been lying dormant for awhile. The last time I felt this way was back in my early thirties when I was frustrated with the world. That’s around the time when I started delving into Anarchism. I’m glad I found out about that philosophy, because it brings me great solace knowing such a philosophy and people that believe in it, exist in this world. It gives me hope. That’s not to say that people who don’t believe in Anarchism do not give me hope. There are plenty of good people in the world. But Anarchism resonates with me.
Like one of Steven Avery’s attorneys said: we can say we will probably never commit a crime, but we can never say we won’t be accused of one, and if we are ever accused, good luck! Meaning, good luck in maintaining or proving your innocence when the judicial system is as broken and corrupt as it is.
We need to get our power back. Our lives should not ever lay in the hands of anyone else but ourselves.
The Human Element & How Our Systems Will always Be Flawed
As I stated above, humans are fallible animals. We are imperfect. And therefore, our systems will always be as imperfect and as fallible as we are, and prone to being unfair, unjust and corrupt just as much as we are prone to being unfair, unjust and corrupt.
How do we fix this? Very simply, if you ask me: we abolish them. We go back to living a more natural lifestyle like our hunter-gatherer ancestors once did. Or at the very least we find a way to regain dominion over our lives and return to where we are a self-governing society. Or some other alternative that is less prone to all of the injustices that were exposed in this documentary.
We are judgmental creatures, that is a fact. It is part of our inherent animal nature to judge. It is a trait passed down throughout the generations dating far back to when we lived in caves. We judge in order to determine what is safe and what is not. But it has grown out of control to where we are constantly passing judgments, placing blame and pointing fingers at almost everyone but ourselves. We need to start putting more emphasis on thinking, being open minded, being accepting and being understanding before casting judgment.
This is one reason I believe we need to abolish prisons, government and any economic system, and return to an autonomous, self-sufficient, self-governing lifestyle. But I feel we’ve come to far, and that we are far beyond the tipping point to ever go back to living a healthier, more natural lifestyle.
There mostly likely are no gods. Humans most especially are not gods, but merely evolved, possibly devolved, animals. While we may not be on the same level as a cow or lion, we are still part of the Animal Kingdom. And because we are animals, we are fallible, imperfect and flawed. Also, there is no such thing as perfection. Therefore, we should not be playing god with anyone’s life.
What goes on in the lives of others is not our business. That’s all well and good of course, until it comes down to a personal act of crime, be it theft or murder. That’s when things become challenging to address. Do you exact revenge, seek “an eye for an eye”? I suppose you could. Do you put the perpetrator in a cell for the rest of their life? I suppose you could. Do you exercise forgiveness, hoping the perpetrator will no longer commit another crime? I suppose you could. These and others are all difficult moral questions to answer given the fact that there are no universal moral laws to which we are bound, unlike gravity. Free will is both a blessing and a curse. I do not know what the answer is, but prison definitely does not deter crime, and neither does the death penalty. We shouldn’t be lazy and let someone else fix the problems that impact us all. Locking people away does not change human behavior. It doesn’t reform anyone. It’s just an “out of sight, out of mind” mentality.
I think it is time we find a better way. Again, because there is no such thing as perfection, there is always a better way!
Think of it this way: we kill all manners of organisms, plants and animals, every single day just to eat, and no one goes to prison. Governments, most especially here in the U.S., kill in the name of war that they justify as necessary, and no one goes to prison. We kill unborn fetuses via abortion, and I don’t believe anyone goes to prison. We end the lives of our loved ones by taking them off of life support, and no one goes to prison. Yet, when an act of murder happens at a personal level, for some reason we get up on our moral high ground and want heads to roll! We’re already killing unborn children, innocent bystanders during war, a ridiculous amount of animals via industrial farming, and all of that is okay, but then you want to punish the few that make mistakes, that act on impulse, that have their judgement clouded, that suffer with a mental illness, because they killed one or a dozen people? It’s funny how we have the audacity and arrogance to decide what is right and wrong to kill.
I love the series. I highly recommend it. It is very eye-opening. It’s also very disheartening knowing how broken our legal system is and how quickly you can go from being free and innocent to being imprisoned for life.
I hope this series does more than just help free Steven Avery and Brendan Dassey. I hope it raises many questions in peoples’ minds. I hope it wakes people up. And most importantly, I hope it gets people talking about what we should do with our fallible, flawed, broken and often corrupt judicial systems.
My thoughts also go out to Steven Avery, Brendan Dassey and their families, if they are indeed truly innocent, which is what I believe from a judicial standpoint and based on everything so far in Season 1 of MaM.
That’s about all the thoughts I have for Season 1. Stay tuned for my thoughts on Season 2.
Thanks for reading!