Making a Murderer – Steven Avery

It seems that the Netflix “docudrama” Making a Murderer is popular right now and Mr. Avery has a bunch of supporters calling for his pardon. There is apparently an online petition going around to have President Obama pardon him. I decided to watch the show, but only got ten or fifteen minutes into it before deciding it was trash. Here’s why.

First, if you don’t know the story at all, the short version is that Avery is from a working class junk dealer family. He was convicted of a rape, did eighteen years for that, and then was freed when DNA evidence proved he wasn’t the rapist. After his release he sued the state of Wisconsin for wrongful conviction, but before that got resolved he was arrested and convicted of an unrelated murder. The show takes the defendant’s side and portrays the police and prosecutors as conspiring to frame him because he is suing them.

I don’t know if Avery committed that rape or the murder, and I don’t care. I do, however, think he is a danger to society and we are all better off people like him are locked away. That’s not to say I approve of people being incarcerated for crimes they didn’t commit. I am making a judgment on Avery himself. He is, in a word, a scumbag.

The show begins by showing his upbringing in rural Wisconsin, portraying him as a blue-collar kid picked on and avoided by the middle-class farmers around him. Personally, I think farmers are at least as hard-working and blue collar as junk dealers, but let’s move on. The show suggests that he and his family were just non-conformists and subjected to prejudice by their neighbors just because some of them had gotten into trouble with the law. Avery admits to the interviewer that he “made a couple of mistakes” when he was young and drunk. What “mistakes?” He set fire to a cat for the enjoyment. That’s right, he’s an animal torturer. The show didn’t go on to say whether the cat survived. That was the most graphic detail, but the whole picture was of a low-life sadistic sociopath. I never even got to the evidence of the murder trial. To me, anyone who sets fire to an animal for the “pleasure” of seeing it suffer belongs in prison for life anyway.

Why anyone feels sympathy for this miscreant is beyond me, but I think it has to do with low IQ. The petition that is going around is directed to President Obama. Did all 200,000 of the signers flunk sixth grade? Avery was convicted of murder by a Wisconsin court. Only the governor of Wisconsin can pardon him. The president can only pardon people convicted of federal crimes. You know, that pesky Constitution thing about separation of powers between the federal and state governments. I know I got that lesson in elementary school.

The prosecutor in that case has recently been appearing on TV refuting the show, claiming it left out a lot of forensic evidence that incriminated Avery. The show’s producer appeared and basically said the show’s a success because people are watching and they tried to present all sides. She never refuted any of the specific claims by the prosecutor about the evidence omitted from the show. The original idea of the show was for it to be a documentary, but the lawyers decided they couldn’t characterize it that way and made them change it to “docudrama.” There’s only one good explanation for that change. It isn’t factual. From my own experience, I know that even real reporters and publications get the facts wrong all the time. Someone who sets out to make a “docudrama” (like “J. Edgar”) intends to create a fiction to perpetuate a point of view or support for a cause, or just create a controversy that will drive publicity and viewers. Truth or accuracy is is at best irrelevant and at times a hindrance to the goal. So I recommend people not watch the show, whether or not Avery is guilty of the murder. Don’t make him a hero.