Note: This is an opinion article – there may be followup with a fact-based article in the future, but for the time being, all thoughts are derived from what I currently know, based on “Making a Murderer”, its IMDB page, a few other “blog” pages, and the Wikipedia pages for the series, Steven Avery, and Teresa Halbach. There is no affiliation with the producers of the documentary or with anyone associated with the case, and the only affiliation I have with Netflix is as one of its many customers. There is also no intended disrespect for anyone involved.
If you’re like me, you’re one of the many people who feels Steven Avery deserves a new trial, if not should be freed. Thank the documentary series “Making a Murderer” for that – the series does an excellent job of making the argument for Avery that, due to the many variables and complications involved with his trials as well as that of his nephew Brendan Dassey, the bare minimum deserved IS a new trial. Questionable conduct on the part of individuals of the Manitowoc and Calumet Police Department, as well as questionable actions on the part of the lawyers and justice system of Wisconsin, all come under fire in this case, and the fact that no one, including governor (and former presidential candidate who now owes money) Scott Walker, will give the guy any help, leaves little hope for any real change or reform on these practices. In essence, some very guilty parties are – pardon the language – “getting away with murder.”
Like a lot of people whose opinions have been expressed online and in the media, I’m shocked and outraged by the documentary, and have many opinions to express. Unlike many of the things I’ve seen, however, I think more could be done to correct this – and see more than what the series intended to show.
I hope the parties involved do read this – and take into consideration what I have to say. Like many of the thousands of people, my main introduction to the case was the documentary, so there’s a lot that I don’t know. I can only base things on what I do know.
The Documentary Series
One thing I’m sick of reading from the people involved with the case – the responses from the police department and the prosecution – is how this is NOT a documentary. They’re missing key evidence, according to former prosecutor Ken Kranz, and they’re not presenting all of the facts, and skewing the ones they do. Hate to tell them this, but by their argument, many of the popular documentaries, such as “SuperSize Me” and “Bowling for Columbine,” wouldn’t fit as documentaries – and they’re wrong. Like an author writing a book based on an event that isn’t a textbook for school or a news book, the film makers are likely giving an opinion and making an argument or case – why else write or present it? Disagreeing with that argument doesn’t change what it is.
I liked the series. Like good fiction, it presents the heroes and villains – in this case, Avery and members of the police and prosecution – in ways that hit the right emotional cords and connections. Unlike most other documentaries I’ve seen, it does this WITHOUT some narrator or on-screen presence of the people behind the camera – you only get what was said by the people involved. I do wish more of what the people arguing against this was presented and dealt with, but I’m sure much of it was left out due to its importance in the argument it was making, as well as the time limits involved with stretching the case to 10 episodes. (I could easily see how it could have been a longer series – covering more into the blood testing or covering areas not shown on the police side, for example.)
The one major flaw I feel the series makes is establishing real motive – while the series does an effective job in painting Avery as an innocent man, it doesn’t put any effort into the motive established for why he’s accused, nor into any motives other than why the Manitowoc Police Department was involved. This will be discussed later.
The Presidential Argument
Before the series was finished I had already signed the petition to the president. Like the many who’ve reported, I’ve known there’d be no way for the president to pardon Avery – current laws prevent him from taking direct action, and the politics involved means there’s no way he can buddy-buddy with Walker to convince him to pardon Avery, either. Unlike what most people realize, however, the president has resources at his avail to do the one thing he can do: find the evidence necessary to force a new trial. Obama’s background prior to being a state senator as well as a law professor should provide enough connections to not involve the federal government, meaning that he could avoid turning any actions into a complete mess. (Given his recent move involving gun sales and registration, this would also be the route I’d advise him to take: anything more than “go do this for me,” regardless of who he tells it to, will likely waste his time and energy where it’s unneeded, and may give others the necessary resources to work against said actions.)
Where to Investigate and Focus
Given the unwillingness of the current legal system, Avery is left with one option: find the evidence needed for the new trial. The plus side is that, thanks to the documentary, there are many new and unlikely resources at his avail, such as the hackers of Anonymous and the people more willing to come out with new information. Unfortunately, in a day and age where information can be manufatured, said information and evidence needs to be carefully sought out and handled. That means looking in the right places and the right people.
The following are thoughts I have on the people accused or involved with the case and what I think should be questioned and sought out.
Steven Avery – The reason I keep stressing “new trial” and not “pardon” is that there’s the possibility we have not considered: an accident. We know he had no real reason TO KILL Teresa, and plenty of reason not to – but an interesting thought no one has entertained yet is the possibility of an accident: what if she died due to head trauma on his property? We know he’s nowhere near as intelligent as he’d need to be to clean up, without bleach, the evidence of the crime he’s accused of – but we also know he’d have good reason to fear such a death, and the same lack of intelligence, as well as the distrust of the police, to try to cover it up INSTEAD OF calling for help. This is, of course, a least-likely scenario, and if this had happened, he’d have likely confessed this by now – but it is a possibility to consider.
Brendan Dassey – he needs to be pardoned, plain and simple. Unlike his uncle, who could have learned things in jail, he’d have committed more errors had be been involved in any way, which would have been more non-circumstantial evidence. You bullied a kid into a confession of a crime he was too dumb at the time to commit – congratulations Wisconsin! This is easily the biggest mistake made in this case.
Officers Lenk and Colbern – The one thing you have to remember about police officers is that they’re human- they’re not machines, incapable of thought or emotion. As such, of all of the people involved with the case, these two are the ones with the biggest reason to not only to frame Steven Avery but to also kill Teresa Halbach. How is it these two were the first involved and the ones to find what others did not? Especially when they called the Calumet Police Department to keep Manitowoc out of it? Especially when one of them was involved with the 1985 rape case Avery was later acquitted of?
Here are two guys who, due to their training, would know the kinds of things investigators would look for, and likely would also know how to get it there. Because of the area, one or both may be hunters – meaning they might now how to kill her without leaving either a body or a mess. (This goes double if they also have military experience – as was stated at the top, I’ve not investigated too far beyond the sources listed above.) Unlike the Averies, they didn’t have reason to be near the property prior to Halbachs disappearance – all the more reason why they look suspicious to me.
While they have all of the reasons to kill Teresa – a good-looking, healthy woman who’d attract a lot of attention if gone as well as a sharp contrast to the man suing them for millions of dollars based on their wrongful actions – and all of the know-how, they’d also be the hardest to convict for anything more than perjury: All of that knowledge in planting the evidence would also equate to the same knowledge needed to get rid of their evidence. Any useful evidence that would have proved their guilt was likely washed away by time, if not destroyed along the way.
At minimum, these two will be the best sources of evidence to get Avery his new trial, and at minimum, these two should be put on trial for their actions in both cases: These men are definitely guilty of something, and there should be no reason to plant evidence on a guilty man. The best theory I have is that they’re the active part of a conspiracy with other players of the lawsuit brought against MPD and its former sheriff and prosecutor, and likely the only ones you’ll find said evidence.
Scott Tadych and Teresa’s roommate – I did read in one blog post a couple of days back of their possible roles in her death. While an argument could be for either one of them in motive and questions/knowledge, I doubt you’ll find much evidence if they were involved based on the time invested in investigating either one during or since the case. If they did it, the easiest way you’ll get it is to beat it physically out of them – not useful to free an innocent man.
Ken Kranz – I’m mentioning him because of the conspiracy theory I threw out there with the officers earlier. Unfortunately, as much of an asshole as I think he is, I don’t think he’s involved in any real way to any conspiracy: He’s too loud and too convenient to be, unfortunately. Yes, I think he took some risks and did some things that are worth questioning separately (along with the other investigators) – but like Avery, if he were guilty of anything involving a conspiracy to frame or murder, if he were involved he’d have slipped up by admitting something by now. (The case is too big for him to keep his mouth shut – as is evident by all of the negative press he’s been giving for the documentary series now, years after being kicked out of his prosecution job.) You won’t find evidence or motive for killing Teresa or framing Avery, and the worst you might find him guilty of is prosecutorial misconduct.
The Happy Theory
One thought my girlfriend and I are split on is the possibility of the police murdering Teresa: while we can agree on their involvement in framing Avery, she can’t allow herself to see them as killers. One possibility we can agree upon, were the police involved beyond framing Avery, is that Teresa is alive. The likelihood of this is slim to none due to the variables involved, but it goes back to the lack of blood Avery’s defense kept pointing out: what if the reason there’s no blood found was because no one died in the first place? How much would it cost to make someone disappear for the rest of their lives without killing them? What if Teresa is still alive, either stuck someplace where she’s unable to contact anyone or paid off with enough to never contact her family again while Avery’s alive? This would explain the lack of physical evidence and blood on anything but a few objects, and probably far cheaper than the $36 million Avery was seeking in his lawsuit.
Again, this is unlikely, BUT given what evidence was presented in the documentary, it’s possible.
To the Halbachs, and the police
One thing that won’t change even if Avery is found innocent is the pain the Halbachs are experiencing, not just with Teresa’s disappearance, but with everything in the legal system since. While I wish my last theory was what happened, Teresa doesn’t strike me as the type of person who’d stay silent for this long, willing or otherwise. I apologize for any pain this article may cause, but I also hope it leads people in directions that bring permanent closure to this issue to them.
Likewise, while I suspect a few members mentioned of illegal and questionable activity, I do not fully extend that to the people of the Manitowoc or Calumet police departments or legal officials of these said areas. It’s easy to blame and attack the larger systems for a few questionable or completely rotten apples in the core – but most of these people either had nothing directly to do with this, or were manipulated by those involved into the result they came up with. These people shouldn’t be attacked or held accountable for the manipulations of a few, especially if wrong-doing is involved.
Where to go next
One thing I would stress is that these are theories and thoughts – they’re not actions.
If you want to help – and you’re not Anonymous, part off any legal or investigative team, or any other group or individual already vocally involved – there’s two ways you can:
- go to one of the petitions such as on petitions.whitehouse.gov or change.org and sign your name – the more signatures and voices out there demanding an investigation or pardon, the more they will have to do something.
- find and/or donate to some sort of fund to help with Avery’s defense – since having a defense to help him fight will also help find professional investigators to dig further into the mess.
If you’re going to investigate – or attempt to – start with officers Lenk and Colbern. They’re the ones most likely to have cleaned up the evidence, but they’re also the most likely to have any evidence. There’s also the jurors to investigate – you don’t start with 7 jurors ready to say not guilty, replace one of those jurors, and get two guilty verdicts without something being wrong. (The recent remarks by the filmmakers that a juror came forward fearing for their life lends to this.) Steven Avery is still worth investigating – you’re not likely to find anything new to prove his innocence, but it’s still possible. Save Kranz for last, if at all – big, loud barking dogs are used more for getting attention than for being trustworthy, and given his actions that led to leaving the prosecutorial team he probably is a dead end for anything worthwhile.
One last note: stick to direct sources for the facts, if possible. Most of the blogs I’ve seen arguing against Avery used some manufactured “evidence” to argue Avery’s guilt, which can be obvious to discredit. Yes, we’re questioning the court case, but between that, the documentary and anything connected directly to the individuals involved, you shouldn’t need anything else for argument. (That even includes my posting.)