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An Examination of the Evidence in "Making a Murderer"

Ever since the release of the Netflix documentary series “Making a Murderer” in late 2015, people across the nation have become vocal regarding their beliefs and speculations surrounding the trial and conviction of the series’ main subject, Steven Avery. For those who are unaware, Avery, a man from Manitowoc County, Wisconsin, was convicted of raping a local woman in 1985, before being exonerated in 2003 through DNA evidence after having spent 18 years in prison. Upon pursuing a multimillion dollar lawsuit against the local Manitowoc County Sheriff’s Office over his wrongful imprisonment and alleged misconduct by the police involved in his case, Avery would find himself again in trouble with the law – only this time, for the alleged murder of local photographer Teresa Halbach.

Despite glaring evidence of prosecutorial misconduct, coercion, and suspicion of evidence tampering by the Manitowoc County Sherriff’s Office, Avery would be convicted again and sentenced to life in prison without parole, along with a life sentence for Avery’s Nephew, Brendan Dassey, for accessory to murder. Avery has since maintained his innocence and claims that he was framed by the police department over his civil lawsuit. Appeals of his conviction are still being pursued.

While we may never know what truly happened, one thing remains clear: the prosecution in this case likely operated outside the bounds of the law. The trial of Steven Avery highlights deep flaws within the criminal justice system and is chock full of questionable behaviors from police and prosecutors, many of which are all too common during criminal proceedings.

Did Investigators Plant Evidence?

The documentary presents a defense theory that law enforcement officials may have planted and tampered with evidence in order to secure Avery’s conviction. While Avery’s blood was found inside Ms. Halbach’s vehicle, a sealed sample of his blood held by the Manitowoc County Sherriff’s Office from Avery’s 1985 rape trial showed signs of tampering, including a puncture hole in the vial’s stopper.

The key from Halbach’s car was also found in Avery’s bedroom, though how it got there is still unclear. Despite the Manitowoc County Sherriff’s Office’s promise to turn over its investigation into Ms. Halbach’s death to law enforcement from neighboring Calumet County to avoid a conflict of interest, Manitowoc County sheriffs remained involved. In fact, after numerous searches of Avery’s property had come up empty, a sheriff who was involved in Avery’s previous case discovered the key. Avery’s DNA would be found on the key, though there was not a trace of Ms. Halbach’s DNA – leading many to believe that the key had been scrubbed and sterilized.

How Does Brendan Dassey Fit Into This?

Dassey, who was Avery’s then 16-year-old nephew and neighbor with learning disabilities, was Avery’s alibi on the night of Ms. Halbach’s alleged murder, having reportedly went to his uncle’s home for a bonfire. Dassey would later be questioned by authorities without the presence of a parent of lawyer, prompting him to “confess” to being an accessory to his uncle’s rape and murder of Ms. Halbach.

The reliability of this confession is shaky at best, however, as video of Dassey’s questioning shows that several key facts surrounding Halbach’s death were not initially presented by Dassey – but by investigators themselves. Dassey also appears to not fully understand the gravity of his statements, as after he confesses to the brutal rape and killing, asks when he can head back to school. Dassey later redacted his confession, only to be interrogated a second time without representation, leading to a re-confession.

Criminal Defense Attorneys in Westchester

While no criminal justice system in the world is perfect, it is difficult to watch “Making a Murderer” without thinking that the United States could be making greater strides to prevent issues such as these from occurring. “Making a Murderer” is a prime example of why accused individuals must retain the services of a powerful attorney to protect themselves against possible bias from prosecutorial forces.

If you are facing charges for a crime, our high-caliber Westchester criminal defense lawyers at Riebling, Proto & Sachs LLP can help you level the playing field against seemingly insurmountable odds and maximize your chances of securing a favorable outcome for your situation. Backed by more than 50 years of combined experience and a placement among New York’s top five percent of attorneys by Super Lawyers®, your case is sure to be in excellent hands.

Call (914) 840-5104 or schedule a free case review today to discover your legal options.

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