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‘Making A Murderer’ and a façade of criminal justice

‘Making A Murderer’ and a façade of criminal justice

‘Making A Murderer’ and a façade of criminal justice
January 21
01:59 2016

Morgan Sullivan | Staff Writer


By now, most of the country has seen Netflix’s documentary series, “Making a Murderer,” which follows the fate of Steven Avery after he is accused of both murder and rape over the course of 18 years.

The series became an overnight sensation as viewers binge-watched, anxiously awaiting Avery’s fate, even though the events being observed unfurled nearly 10 years ago.

In a flash, everyone with a Twitter account became an expert in the criminal justice system, weighing in on the verdict in the Avery case. Just as seeing every episode of “Grey’s Anatomy” doesn’t earn one a medical degree, swallowing 10 episodes of “Making a Murderer” doesn’t afford one a law degree.

Though the series is certainly engaging, it highlights a major concern in modern society: viewing the failings of our criminal justice system as entertaining and only being drawn to action once it has become a major visual production.

Nearly a decade later, it’s almost easy to look back on this case and point fingers as to where we believe the system failed Avery, as a case extending over a year was compacted into 10 one-hour episodes.

The entire program is a pre-packaged, microwave-ready form of the criminal justice system and has been shown to leave out many key details in its wake.

So many years later, we have the luxury of hindsight to help cast an overwhelming shadow over the prosecution in this case. This may not have been how the trial itself felt in 2006 – the evidence is presented with a thick layer of omniscience.

We are not living in the moment. we are simply viewing it from a distance.

It’s easy to complain about food poisoning after you’ve already eaten the food and returned to normal. The trial, as shown in the series, is meant to entertain an audience while keeping out the monotony of an actual court case.

The evidence the documentary chooses to include is laid out in front of viewers in an easy, understandable way.

It has to be.

Documentaries are meant to educate, but “Making a Murderer” seemed more inclined to entertain. Judging from the vast number of television shows centered around crime, the American public has a deep-rooted interest in the criminal justice system.

However, that often is simply a façade, and “Making a Murderer” is a good example of this. Why, when the verdict was read nearly a decade ago, do we suddenly care about the Avery case?

One can’t simply blame the media, as there was an outpouring of coverage. A case of this caliber should have left more of a mark. We simply do not care for the legal system when we aren’t hidden comfortably behind our screens.

The criminal justice system is a dark, mangled monster, and we are safely hidden under the covers. The fact is that it is just easier to look away than to face the belly of the beast.

We are easily up-and-arms about cases like Avery’s, ones that strike a nerve, yet we ignore criminal proceedings happening in our own cities.

This is not to suggest that we must sit in on every open trial. However, we must make a conscious decision to be more involved in our community.

We must ask questions of our judges, our policemen and be more open to the idea of dreaded jury duty.

Featured Image: Photo illustration by Jake Bowerman | Senior Staff Illustrator 

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1 Comment

  1. Benjamin Nystrom
    Benjamin Nystrom January 29, 13:10

    I fail to understand the food poisoning analogy. What are you suggesting by that sentiment? Should people not complain about food poisoning after the fact? Should people complain about food poisoning before they eat the food? How can a person know they suffered from food poisoning until after they have been poisoned? I might be missing something, but it does not seem an apt comparison to what you are trying to say.

    To that point, it appears this article is trying to convince people to be more involved in the criminal justice system. That is a fair sentiment. However, there was over a hundred plea bargains reached in the DFW area yesterday, and the day before that. In the Federal system alone there are almost 90 thousand convictions every single year, and the federal system handles less than 10 percent of the state systems. All of this represents a fraction of the arrests, investigations, and other proceedings that criminal courts handle on a yearly basis. Are you seriously suggesting that the average American familiarize themselves with even a small portion of these?

    The Avery documentary is not questioning whether the conviction was right or wrong, and viewing the film in that light misses the point. The show revealed that both defendants received less than fair treatment from the system and that was not something conveyed through the media at the time. The news outlets broadcasted a false statement of facts from the prosecution that were only supported by a confession from a mentally challenged young man. The news had no way to know that the confession was forced out the boy, but the prosecution did, and it conveniently failed to mention that part. From there, there could not have been a fair presentation of the facts. Everyone in the state was affected by what they heard, and no one was willing to hear differently.

    The problem wasn’t that people were not involved or were not asking questions. It was that they were being lied to, and had no way of knowing. You could actually have sat in the courtroom during Avery’s trial and not been able to understand or appreciate the magnitude of everything that had happened. That poor kid’s own lawyer worked to sabotage him, and no one in the gallery, not even Steven’s defense lawyers were aware.

    I do not understand how on one hand you can want more transparency in the court systems and yet condemn this show for only having the capacity for hindsight. Unless you know of a way to read minds or tell the future, I would like to know how else you plan on investigating affairs without looking into the past.

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