I just finished watching the complete first season (Netflix Original) of “Making a Murderer,” a documentary series following the criminal prosecution, then exoneration, then further criminal prosecution of Steven Avery in Wisconsin. He, along with his nephew Branden, appear to be innocent and framed for the 2nd batch of crimes they were accused of and prosecuted for. The evidence laid out in that documentary series is mind-blowing, seriously disturbing, and a must-see for anyone interested in the workings of the criminal justice system or concerned about the wrongfully convicted in this country.
It was particularly disappointing how quickly the Innocence Project distanced itself from Steven once he was brought up on new charges after they had helped him seek exoneration from the first. In the first major crime Steven was convicted of, police misconduct appeared clear as day, and Steven served 18 years before physical evidence was tested that conclusively proved he was not the rapist and, in fact, the real rapist (Gregory Allen) had been mentioned at the time to the sheriff’s department yet that lead wasn’t followed up on. And Allen was allowed to continue on to commit further violent rapes before finally being captured.
But then, after being exonerated for a wrongful conviction and serving so many years, Steven sought compensation and admission of wrongdoing/misconduct from the sheriff’s department who handled his case. And that’s when his next batch of problems began. Truly upsetting what lengths people will go to protect their own reputations and careers, even (or perhaps particularly) when they know they’ve behaved in a biased and unfair manner. They appeared to have pulled out all the stops in attempting to send Steven Avery back to prison, this time with no eligibility for early release. And throughout that process they managed to take advantage of Steven’s mentally slow nephew and exploit his willingness to be agreeable, landing him too in prison without eligibility for early release until 2048. It’s just astounding. The interview footage and recordings alone were damning evidence of wrongdoing on the parts of the investigators and prosecutors and even Branden’s own original defense attorney. Just sick and sad how people can look at that evidence and not see a reason to grant a new trial.
And people wonder why I personally lost interest in the criminal justice system while studying up on it as an undergrad. This sort of shit is why. This along with its never-ending “war on drugs” and obvious biases against the lower classes and certain groups of color. We’re fooling ourselves if we think we live within a just system. It’s only as just as the people force it to be, yet most treat it as little more than entertainment to watch on television or read in the newspaper. We don’t really care. Not until it takes advantage of us or one of our loved ones, at least. But so far as strangers go, we’re quick to want to see people lynched, to see somebody held responsible and punished, even if they aren’t the actual culprit. It’s like some form of blood-lust, no different than what we read about from ancient Roman times. Humans don’t change apparently. Our sense of empathy isn’t necessarily expanding in modern times, much as we like to think it has. It really hasn’t. We tell ourselves whatever we need to in order to sleep well at night, and that’s all there is to it. Everybody likes to think they’re a good person, that they’re just and fair. But how often do we see that that simply is not the case? That we more frequently prefer to stay in good-standing with others around us than pursue justice at all costs?
Hypocrites. The lot of us. We indeed deserve the government we wind up receiving.