The Netflix Law Review: Making a Murderer
Welcome all to my brand new series;’ The Netflix Law Review’! With lockdown very much still in full swing I’ve resorted back to binging on Netflix. The difference is this time, I decided to watch some slightly more thought provoking movies and shows and write down my thoughts. This first edition will be on Making a Murderer (Spoiler Alert!) but please leave any comments of shows you want me to talk about and obviously all your opinions are also very much welcome too!
I recently started watching part two of Making a Murderer and since clicking on episode one, I’ve been hooked. I watched the first season last year and was immediately drawn to the controversy around Steven Avery’s case. To summarise; he was accused and sentenced for the rape and murder of a woman named Teresa Halbach alongside his nephew Brendan Dassey in 2005. However, as the series goes on, there is the growing impression that the two men were potentially wrongly convicted. It follows the narrative of Steven’s attorneys, trying to uncover the potential corruption and malpractice of the Manitowoc County Police department.
What struck me the most about this case in the first season was the conduct of the trial and the analysis of the evidence that was used within the trials of Avery and Dassey. From the coerced confession to the DNA evidence, there was a constant air of suspicion around the case. However, since starting the second season, a new perspective was introduced to me. When you consider who this series is aimed at and its purpose, there is a large potential for bias. My original strong belief that Steven and Brendan were wrongfully convicted was directly challenged. Was it possible that I only felt this way because that is what the documentary wanted me to think? This is where the rule of law and the criminal procedure comes in.
Regardless of the magic of film or in this case the magic of Netflix, the law is the law, and procedure is procedure. Therefore when I watch back the interrogation of Brendan and observe the way in which he was pushed and pressured into giving specific answers it is clear evidence of coercion. Not only was the confession taken in violation of his Fifth Amendment right, but also in violation of his right to have legal representation. This shows how on one hand the technicalities involved in applying the law can help ensure a just and fair conviction but on the other, can also be the reason why false convictions occur.
The idea of proving guilt ‘beyond reasonable doubt’ suggests that the likelihood that the accused is actually guilty is fairly high. However when you then consider that ‘beyond reasonable doubt’ does not necessarily mean that the person is undoubtedly guilty but that there is no reason why the accused isn’t guilty. In other words, you either prove that they did it, or prove that there was no reason they couldn’t have done it. When you look at it in this way, it showcases how the law can be manipulated and can lead to wrongful sentencing especially in criminal law.
This unfortunately is not the only appearance of “loopholes” within the law and although sometimes these can lead to justice being served it often leads to cases like Brendan Dassey and Steven Avery’s. This raises the issue of reformation within the law and whether it lies with the law to change or if it is the practise of law that requires reformation. The use of juries helps to reduce the risk of injustice however even with the juries it is still within the hands of the lawyers or barristers to present the evidence in such a way that will allow a fair conclusion to be reached. The truth and justice in essence are two abstract ideas, in that they are subjective therefore when it comes to the law, there has to be a degree of flexibility to accommodate this. However with flexibility comes a margin of error and situations such as the Avery and Dassey case arise.
These are just some of my thoughts while watching the show and I’m sure that as the series goes on my opinions on certain aspects of the case will change. Again, showing that when it comes to serving justice, it is really a game of morality where the rule book is the law.
Feel free to leave any comments and obviously show recommendations!