by Eric Ginsburg
By the end of the first few episodes of the new Netflix documentary series “Making a Murderer,” most viewers will already be disheartened by the story of the wrongful imprisonment of Wisconsin man Steven Avery. But as the 10-episode show builds —tracking an unbelievable series of events including Avery’s exoneration, lawsuit and subsequent murder charge for an unrelated case — his story becomes increasingly infuriating.
After Avery’s exoneration, he sued the city, police and district attorney who apparently knowingly put him behind bars for 18 years — it would’ve been longer had he not proved his innocence — for $36 million. As the suit picked up steam, with damning discoveries and a few depositions already filmed, Avery is charged with murder. But the “coincidental” timing is far from the most outrageous thing that happened in his second case, which is the focal point of the Netflix series.
This isn’t a story of incompetent lawyers, save for one crooked counsel for Avery’s nephew. It’s a heartbreaking narrative with aspects so maddeningly unethical and wrong that it’s difficult not to be depressed for the Avery family. And for the people of Manitowoc County, Wisconsin, who live under a sheriff’s department that appears to be lying through its teeth at every turn, and allegedly planting several pieces of evidence or at best silently complicit.
Maybe some will watch “Making a Murderer” and come away doubting the claims made by Steven Avery’s counsel in court or in interviews. To do so would require a denial of the most basic common sense and rational thinking, unless the show’s producers excluded major aspects that contradict the Avery-innocence narrative.
But more than just Avery’s case, or the question of one or two cops allegedly willing to break the law to cover their own asses, the poignancy and importance of “Making a Murderer” is its far-reaching implications of how our legal system operates. The filmmakers, and two of Avery’s lawyers in particular, eloquently demonstrate how the legal system inherently favors the state and prosecution, handicapping defendants to such an extreme degree that those with sharp, dedicated lawyers may still hit an insurmountable barrier. Even if, as it appears in Avery’s case, they are innocent. And white.