In 1985, Steven Avery of Manitowoc, Wisc., was convicted of sexual assault and sent to prison despite overwhelming evidence that the police had the wrong man. After DNA evidence exonerated him 18 years later, he soon found himself back in trouble as the prime suspect in a brutal 2005 murder. His story is the subject of the new Netflix documentary Making a Murderer, and while it's ambiguous as to what really happened in Teresa Halbach's death, the show exposes without a doubt some shocking shortcomings in our judicial system.
Needless to say, the show has inspired strong reactions from just about everyone who has seen it. Whereas other true crime stories such as Serial and The Jinx have tried to unravel unsolved mysteries, Making a Murderer from the start isn't shy about its position. It doesn't try to figure out how the crimes Avery was convicted of were committed, but rather it slowly unveils the horror story of a man stripped of his rights and potentially framed by a corrupt police department.
Unsurprisingly, petitions calling for his exoneration (again) have sprung up in the wake of the show's release. A Change.org petition has already reached more than 180,000 signatures and another via the White House is close to 20,000. If the latter reaches 100,000 by January 19, the White House must respond to it publicly. It's unclear whether such support would actually lead to any legal action, because the case can't be reopened without new evidence, but the awareness is definitely good for Avery and for the future of the judicial system.
"We're all hoping the attention to this induces somebody who saw something, who heard something or who has been carrying a secret to come forward," said criminal defense attorney Dean Strang, who represented Avery alongside Jerome Buting at his 2007 trial.
Although the prosecution has claimed the documentary left key damning evidence out of the story, the fact remains that the procedures followed in sending Avery to jail twice were questionable at best. Strang admits near the end of the final episode that he partially hopes Avery did commit the murder he's in jail for, because the alternative that he didn't is just too much to bear. Whether or not Avery will see fair judgment on the heels of Making a Murderer remains to be seen, but at the very least it has shed light worldwide on the extreme flaws present in America's judicial system.
Cover image: Netflix US & Canada via YouTube