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Sunday, January 17, 2016

"Making a Murderer" - part 4: red herrings

In the context of criminal investigation, a "red herring" is a piece of bogus or questionable evidence, or lack of same, used to distract investigators, or a jury, from the central issues of the case. According to one explanation, "if a herring is dragged across a trail that hounds are following, it throws them off the scent." A red herring is typically an isolated piece of inconclusive evidence, or odd discrepancy, that can't be immediately explained. When skillfully employed, as in the Avery case, red herrings can be used to induce gullible jurors, along with members of the media and the public, to take seriously even the most preposterous claims.


As we know, there were several red herrings dragged into the JonBenet Ramsey case to draw attention away from the many signs of Ramsey involvement. In the Steven Avery case, as publicized in the so-called documentary, "Making A Murderer," several red herrings are tossed out to support the claim that investigators were "out to get" Avery and planted evidence. Here are some examples, from the film and elsewhere, with my comments:

1. No sign of the victim's blood or DNA in Avery's bedroom, where the assault allegedly took place.
Assuming investigators were intent on framing Avery, then why wouldn't they have planted Teresa Halbach's DNA on the bed and elsewhere in the room? They were in possession of her remains, so plenty of DNA would have been available. 
Absence of such evidence is understandable once we realize that Avery would most likely have planned the assault in advance. He could have spread several sheets on the bed, to absorb blood and DNA or even spread a tarp on the floor under the bed. According to Brendan Dassey, the victim was shot and stabbed in the stomach after being carried outside the bedroom to the garage and then to her own vehicle. While Dassey supposedly "slit her throat" while she was lying on the bed, that would not necessarily have produced a lot of blood. If an artery had been severed, she would have bled out and died in a very short time, but according to Dassey she was still alive when carried out of the bedroom, suggesting the throat slitting was superficial. Nowhere does Dassey refer to large amounts of blood anywhere in the bedroom or on his or Steven's clothing. Whatever blood was spilled there was most likely absorbed by the sheets, which were subsequently burned.
2. The victim's car key with Avery's DNA was found only after seven or so days. Why wasn't it found during the initial search? Why wasn't Teresa's DNA on it as well?
Once again: if the intention was to plant this evidence, why wait seven days to plant it, why not plant it as soon as possible? According to the report I read, it was found only after a bookcase had been moved, suggesting that it could have been hidden there all along. From what I've been reading, it's only possible to retrieve touch DNA from the last person to touch an object. The fresh layer of DNA destroys whatever DNA might have been underneath. It's also possible that the DNA on the key could have gotten there via inadvertent transfer from a glove that had previously touched some of Avery's clothing. Transfer of this sort is very common and more likely than the deliberate planting of evidence.
3. The 22 caliber slug with Teresa's blood on it was found 10 days after the initial search, suggesting it was planted.
Once again: why wait ten days to plant evidence? Why not plant it as soon as possible? More important, where would that planted blood have come from? The remains had been thoroughly burned, almost to ashes.
4. Avery's DNA found under the hood of Teresa's vehicle could have been transferred from elsewhere via an investigator's glove.
This was my thought as well, initially. However, from what I've read, the car was immediately sealed after it was found, and shipped to a state forensic lab. One would assume that trained forensic technicians would have been careful enough to avoid indirect transfer. But that possibility can't completely be ruled out, admittedly.
5. From a media report: "Dean Strang stated they had a forensic anthropologist at trial who testified that an open fire wouldn’t have generated enough heat to burn a body in the way that those bones were destroyed, but it didn’t make the documentary."
(http://www.avclub.com/article/read-pro-steven-avery-list-what-was-left-out-makin-230634)
Sorry, but that's awfully hard to take seriously. According to Dassey, an accelerant was used for one thing. For another, the anthropologist had no way of knowing how many times the body was burned, or for how long the fire was kept going, or what might have been done to the remains afterward, such as pulverize them with a sledge hammer for example.
6. There were discrepancies in some of Brendan Dassey's descriptions, such as the outfit Teresa was wearing at the time.
Well, there were discrepancies in the description the rape victim provided in the earlier case, in which Avery was wrongly convicted. Eye witness testimony isn't always 100% reliable, obviously.
7. From the same media report: "Dean Strang mentioned that there were little drops of deer blood all over Avery’s garage, essentially debunking the theory that they could have cleaned all the blood evidence out of the garage, since had they cleaned it that thoroughly, there wouldn’t have been any deer blood."
According to Dassey, some of the victim's blood spattered on the floor of the garage, and this area was thoroughly cleaned later, with a combination of chemicals. It's absurd to assume that the entire garage floor would have been cleaned, only the area where the victim's blood landed, which may not have been that large. Thus most of the floor would not have been cleaned, leaving plenty of room for the drops of deer blood to remain.
8. The victim's DNA was not found on the leg irons or handcuffs found on the premises.
Whoa! Leg irons and handcuffs found on the premises? Sounds like someone got bound hand and foot. As for the absence of DNA, Avery would very likely have read up on the science of DNA, since it was DNA evidence that freed him on the earlier charge. He could easily have covered his victim's wrists and ankles with cloth cuffs as insulation from her bonds.  
9. A vial of Avery's blood was found in an evidence storage area with a hole in the stopper, suggesting some had been extracted with a hypodermic needle. Avery's lawyers interpreted this as evidence that the blood found in the victim's vehicle had been planted.
From an article published recently in OnMilwaukee (http://onmilwaukee.com/movies/articles/makingamudererbloodvial.html), the nurse who first drew the blood claimed that this was routinely the way it was inserted into the vial -- via a hypodermic syringe. Other experts have attested to this being a common practice. 
"According to Dennis Ernst, director of the Center for Phlebotomy Education, in Coydon, Ind., there are two ways to use such vials. The first method involves the nurse drawing blood with a syringe and then sticking the syringe into the rubber stopper top of the vial to put the blood in the tube." The claim that there is something suspicious about that hole is thereby debunked. And as we already know from the "documentary," no trace of the preservative from the vial was found in the blood samples taken from the victim's car.
 I've already gone over Brendan Dassey's testimony, which has also been cited as evidence of a police conspiracy to nail Avery. (See my previous post.) While the detectives who questioned him could have done a better job and should have refrained from asking leading questions or volunteering information, there is more than enough in those interviews to convince any open-minded person of Avery's involvement in this horrific crime. On the one hand it's claimed that Dassey was too feeble minded to understand what he was being asked to describe, and on the other hand it's assumed he was intelligent enough to remember a long, detailed scenario dictated by the authorities. The notion that Dassey's testimony should be discounted simply because he agreed to speak without a lawyer present or that he was being manipulated by the authorities is just one more, bigger, fatter, juicier red herring. Of course we know very well that confessions can be coerced and can sometime be false. But this is far more than simply a confession, it's a detailed eye-witness description of what Dassey claims he actually experienced that day, and there is no way to extract Steven Avery from that account. Even if 90% of it can be questioned, the remainder contains more than enough detail to convict both of this crime. If Dassey's lawyer had been looking out for his client rather then obeying the will of Avery's legal team, he would have convinced him to co-operate with the prosecution in return for a light sentence. After all, he was just a kid and had some mental disability that enabled Avery to manipulate and intimidate him. Instead he's in for life, another of Avery's victims.

I find it disturbing in the extreme that so many otherwise intelligent people could so easily be taken in by red herrings of this sort, to the point that they are now insisting on Avery's innocence. I can't recall a case where the evidence is so patently obvious to anyone with eyes to see and ears to hear.

[Added at 10:45 PM: I'd like to add that I do find it reasonable for someone to have legitimate doubts regarding certain evidence, and legitimate suspicions regarding how it was collected and what it might mean. My problem is not with those who have doubts and suspicions, but those who have made up their minds that evidence had to have been planted and the police investigating the case must therefore be corrupt. That's what I find disturbing, the all too easy willingness of so many to accept red herrings at face value and draw hard and fast conclusions on the basis of such questionable evidence.]

[Added 1-19: For a sensible take on the documentary, and the case as a whole, I strongly recommend the following interview with Nancy Grace, who covered the case from the beginning. ]

100 comments:

  1. It's only because of the earlier case, in which Avery was convicted, spent 18 years in prison and then exonerated, that people became so mislead by these red herrings. Suppose for a moment that that earlier case never happened and we start this case from the point when Teresa Halbach disappears after having gone to Avery's business. People then would have looked at all the incriminating evidence and would have NEVER questioned it. They would have seen Avery as the monster he really is --- not some simple-minded, innocent country guy that was framed by cops out for revenge.

    I believe Avery convinced himself he could get away with this crime because of the outpouring of sympathy he could get because of the earlier case. He continually states throughout the documentary that they are out to get him again, that he just doesn't understand why, that he's having to relive the injustice he suffered before. He sets everyone up to believe the Manitowoc County cops have it out for him. Sure, they may have been embarrassed over the first case, but to suggest that they would risk their careers to frame Avery is absurd. And, frankly, if they HAD wanted to frame him, I think they could have done a much better job of it, as Doc has stated above, by planting some of this evidence right away, or by simply planting more of it.

    bb

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    1. Yes, bb, if not for the earlier injustice, Avery's guilt in Halbach's murder would not have gotten much attention at all, and it's likely that none of the evidence would have been questioned as due to police corruption. While one might argue that embarrassment and possibly serious financial losses could have motivated certain law enforcement people to plant evidence, such an insinuation is not enough for such an accusation to stick. Real evidence must be presented, and aside from the now discredited blood vial claim, none has. As you say, if they'd intended to frame him they could have done a much better job.

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  2. As you told Tracy in Part 8, one man's red herring is another's clue, provided he can build a case upon it, as Franklin, various Anonymous and I have done. You seem to be dismissing anyone who does not agree with your interpretation of facts, but still feels
    Avery is guilty.

    I find that narrow-minded and hidebound, Doc, and your last paragraph is offensive in the extreme.
    CC

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  3. In re Avery, you have no special dispensation, no particular gift of insight, no access to information that can't be found on the internet by any Tom, Dick or Anonymous, yet you've set yourself up as some an infallible font of wisdom.

    I accept that you have a degree of well-earned expertise in the JBR case, but this is beyond the pale in the instant case.
    CC

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    1. CC, while it's true that one man's red herring can be another man's clue, it becomes a meaningful clue only if it can be backed up by actual facts. As I've demonstrated above, the so-called evidence of Avery's innocence isn't really evidence at all because there are no facts to back it up, only character assassination and innuendo. Just because you have legal background, that does not make you immune to this sort of manipulation and yes, it seems clear to me that you, like so many others, have been manipulated into accepting red herrings as meaningful evidence.

      I don't have any special dispensation or wisdom, but I do have a very sensitive nose for bullshit. Sorry if that offends you.

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    2. I hope you'll read what I just added to the end of my post, CC. I don't have a problem with the doubts you've raised -- it's the willingness of so many make uncritical assumptions regarding it's meaning and then jump to the conclusion that Aver had to be innocent and some huge injustice has taken place that bothers me. I hope you realize that I respect your views even when we disagree.

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  4. I'm a lawyer; I'm well-versed in bullshit; not to worry.

    It's that very background that makes the possible planting of the key and the hinky spotting of the license plate perfectly plausible. Cops offered to "help" with evidence or testimony many, many times.
    CC

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    1. I think it naive to assume that all police are going to be paragons of virtue. Police become police primarily because of their willingness to take huge risks and possibly sacrifice their lives to preserve order. It's also undoubtedly true that some sociopaths become police because they relish the opportunity to lord it over others. If we want an orderly, just society we need to take our chances with people willing to do the dirty work needed to enforce it. Liberal that I am, I nevertheless cringe when I see reckless attacks on law enforcement, based on unfounded assumptions. To me, that's hypocritical. If you're convinced the authorities are corrupt then volunteer to police the streets yourself and see how it goes.

      As for the key, I see no reason to assume it was planted. If the police were planting evidence they'd have planted the victim's DNA in Avery's bedroom, not on a key found only after 7 days. That's the problem with this sort of scattershot approach. Why assume that evidence found after several days is somehow more suspicious than evidence found after one day? That sort of assumption is pure rhetoric, but sadly people fall for it.

      Now if the cop spotted the license plate and didn't call it in, but chose to report it to his fellow "conspirator" in private, then that would look suspicious to me, assuming the truth ever got out. But he didn't keep his discovery under wraps, he reported it. As it turned out, this was a violation of some rule, because there was no active warrant at the time -- which is a legal issue, not a moral one. If you want to assume Avery was set up, then please explain how that car could have been driven onto the lot without anyone noticing - or why anyone in his right mind would take such a huge risk of being spotted doing that.

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  5. I do not believe Avery was set up, never have done. I believe he committed the crime, as I've stated several times.

    I'm a staunchly law and order bleeding heart liberal, and hold law enforcement in high esteem. The cops that approached me weren't bad cops, but they were willing to go above and beyond to see justice done, much as the Maitowoc boys in blue may have. I think one must concede the possibility.

    I took another look at that "bookcase". It was the size of a nightstand and contained no books. I've been present at a number of police searches, and they routinely turn the place - and the furniture - literally upside down. In six searches of a doublewide, I think it's likely they moved that bookcase.

    As far as the authorities having custody of the victim's remains and being able to somehow sprinkle Teresa's DNA from cremains, I don't see it. Nor do I think they tampered with the blood evidence.
    CC

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  6. I do not think the cops moved the car. I think that sergeant found it on an illicit search and took the key from the ignition to prevent it being moved while they fumbled for a more acceptable means of discovering it.
    CC

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    1. I was aware from your previous remarks that you consider him guilty, CC. What disturbs me is your willingness to accept the defense's interpretation of certain evidence, especially the key.

      I don't see the search as necessarily illicit, because as I see it, the cop had a right to look around. As I understand it, by the way, he did ask permission from one of the Averys to do a cursory search. Whether the lack of a warrant was all that important I can't say, so yes the search may have been illicit in that sense. As I see it, if you're going to go through someone's private property in their house, you definitely need a warrant. But to wander around on the property in a manner that any visitor could have done, that doesn't strike me as something that should be seen as a problem.

      As for the key, from my perspective this is precisely the sort of thing I'd call a red herring. Some odd piece of the puzzle that doesn't quite fit, and can thus be blown way out of proportion to suit one side or the other. Sure, it's possible that every inch of that room had been thoroughly searched, and if the key had been present all along it would have been found right away. That does seem reasonable. But we need to counter that reasoning with reasoning that tells us that if the cops intended to plant it they'd have planted it from the start and not waited seven days to pretend they suddenly found it. And if they'd been planting evidence, it would have been found all over that room, not only on a key.

      I do think there is something suspicious about those circumstances, and do concede that it's possible the key was planted by someone who only showed up on that seventh day. But it's also possible the key could have been stuck in a crevice in that bookcase and gone unnoticed until someone shook it hard enough to loosen it. If this had been presented simply as something suspicious, I would not call it a red herring. But when it's presented as more than that, and turned into a big deal, that's when I start to see red.

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  7. Present at the seventh search were Lt. Lenk, Det. Reisler and SERGEANT ANDREW COLBORN from Manitowoc, along with their Calumet babysitter.

    I suggest Sergeant Colborn took his first opportunity to drop the key he'd pocketed on 11/3 during that seventh search.

    I allege no police conspiracy. I suggest there may have been one overzealous cop, trying to help things along for whatever reason. And unless you insist on keeping your blinders, I believe you must concede that possibility.
    CC

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    1. Yes, I won't deny that it's a possibility. But during the course of the so-called "documentary" it morphs into a certainty -- and this I find irresponsible. If they could prove he planted it, then they should have sued him.

      Avery is not the only one on trial here, but he's the only one defended by a legal team and a very clever one at that. Meanwhile most viewing this film have become convinced the key was planted and as a result the evidence was tainted and Avery should go free.

      As I see it, Avery would not have wanted to leave that key in the car but would have wanted to keep it close in case he needed it. I think the plan was to gut it of anything valuable and then crush it, and he'd have needed the key to do that. It's possible he hid the key by jamming it into some cranny in that bookcase where he hoped it wouldn't be found -- and it was eventually found anyhow, but only after several days.

      I think both possibilities are equally likely. But unlike you and so many others, I'm not predisposed to suspect Colburn or anyone else of planting evidence.

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  8. Didn't know Colborn had permission to search from a property owner on 11/3. I'll therefore rephrase, change illicit search to casual search.
    CC

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  9. CC, as a lawyer, you should appreciate the difference between Avery and the policemen who've been accused of corruption and planting evidence. Avery was represented by counsel and was entitled to a fair trial, meaning he was protected by all the many rules of court procedure, including the exclusion of unfounded or misleading evidence and evidence collected improperly.

    Lenk, Colburn and the others have not been charged with any crime and are thus not entitled to any of the protections of the legal system. But, as in the McCarthy era, their reputations have been destroyed by the character assassination efforts of two irresponsible (imo) lawyers and two irresponsible (imo) filmmakers, with no opportunity to be judged by a jury of their peers, based on actual evidence rather than speculation and hearsay.

    Regardless of what you or I might think about the truth in this matter, I believe you'll agree that there is something very unfair about the manner in which the whole world has been turned against these people and how they've been found guilty without a trial and without any real evidence to back up any of the charges that are now generally assumed to be true.

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  10. As a sentinent human being, I have no trouble distinguishing between the two, and sympathizing with the latter.

    As a lawyer, I would suggest that they promptly file a defamation suit or two, both to clear their names and to punish the irresponsible filmmakers and Netflix.

    I take your point, and I've added the Manitowoc cops to my list of casualties of the Avery trial, along with the law, much good it will do any of them.
    Cc

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  11. If a corrupt cop (or anyone associated with a corrupt cop) planted Teresa's vehicle on the Avery property to incriminate him, that person would most definitely be wearing gloves so that his fingerprints were not found on the keys. After parking the car and then covering it with branches, why would he feel the need to take the keys? After all, just finding the car alone on Avery's property, hidden under branches and even an old car hood from another junked car, would be incriminating enough for Avery. The only reason I can see they would take the keys would be to plant them elsewhere, to bolster their frame job of him, as many believe happened. And in order to complete that part of the framing, they would need to plant his DNA on the keys to show that he was the last person to use the car. The DNA on the keys came from Avery's sweat. Why would they choose to put that type of DNA on the keys, especially if they have his blood from the vile? If, in fact, they had tampered with that vile of Avery's blood, it would certainly be easier to put a speck of blood on the keys rather than his sweat. According to his defense team, the keys had been scrubbed down and his sweat DNA was the only DNA found on them. Why would they bother to scrub the keys before planting his DNA on them? Wouldn't they know that Teresa's DNA should be on them too? I contend that there was so much sweat from Avery himself that transferred to the keys when HE moved the car, that her DNA was undetectable. Tampering with these keys to further frame Avery seems a bit overzealous on their part. In other words, wouldn't the car alone -- found with obvious signs that someone tried to hide it -- be enough to incriminate him? Wouldn't it have been easier for the "corrupt cops" to find something belonging to Avery (a simple shop rag or one of his gloves for instance) and toss it into the car to place him in that car?

    As Doc has said, there are so many other things they could have planted in Avery's trailer to incriminate him. Taking the keys from the vehicle, scrubbing them down and then prepping them with only Avery's sweat on them, and then planting them in his trailer, seems like overkill to me.

    I think Avery took the keys (it's natural for most people to do when parking a car), and later hid them somewhere obscure in or around that bookcase. And then later, when the bookcase was searched again --- shaken and tumbled according to the officer who searched it --- the keys fell out from where they were hidden.

    And btw, it is ludicrous to me that anyone could have driven Teresa's vehicle onto Avery's property, hide it under branches and then leave the property without being seenor heard by someone living there. And the same goes for planting her bones in the fire pit. Those are two huge plants that could only have been done if no one was on that property at the time and Avery wasn't the only one living out there.

    bb

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  12. What bothers me most about this case is that the Manitowoc County police absolutely should NOT have been involved in the case due to their conflict of interest with the Avery's and the lawsuit. They should have done the responsible thing and excused themselves from this case altogether, never gotten involved and done nothing to 'help'. That is one of the reasons that I still hold doubts about this case. His lawsuit would have bankrupted them completely - so whether Avery actually did it or not, Manitowoc County screwed up by getting involved in the first place.

    I also would like to note that the interrogation with Brendan Dassey was really messed up. They only ask him leading questions and you can tell that he is actually trying to 'guess' what they want him to say, especially when they repeat over and over again, "What did he do to her head?" and he says, "He cut her hair." "Ok Brendan, what else did he do to her head?" And Brendan has no clue what to say and just guesses randomly for like ten minutes until they finally give up and basically just say, "I'm just flat-out going to say it, who shot her in the head?" I mean come the-fuck-on. That is NOT a confession, that is a leading interrogation with a clearly mentally retarded kid who's intimidated and just 'guessing' and trying to say whatever the cops want to hear. They even give us a phone call between him and his ignorant mother and her demanding to know why he said all that and he says, "I dunno, I was just guessing. I dunno." https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NYOaIDxirHE

    These are the two things that leave me in serious doubt about what really happened. Personally I strongly suspect his brothers and I find it mind-blowing that police didn't even bother investigating them (especially considering their history of sexual assault) or investigating everyone who had access to the property.

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    1. I completely agree that the Manitowoc County police should never have been permitted to play any role whatsoever in the investigation of this case. However, given the mindset of Avery's defense team, I feel sure they would still have accused the authorities of planting evidence, as that was the only possible tactic available if they were going to get Avery off, and they were, in any case, on some sort of crusade to discredit law enforcement in general. In line with their off the wall, paranoid scenario, they'd have claimed the local police were in cahoots with Manitowoc all along. Nevertheless, there is still no excuse for the Manitowoc involvement and it does raise some very real questions.

      Your assessment of Brendan Dassey's interrogation is based on the relatively brief excerpt presented in the "documentary," which is seriously misleading. If you spot through the complete videos you'll find a great many instances where Dassey is not being prompted, and is providing information pointing directly to Avery's involvement. As I see it, it's very difficult to watch any of those videos in their entirety without being convinced of Avery's guilt and Dassey's participation. Whether the videos are accurate in every single respect is beside the point. Dassey is clearly a reluctant witness and every detail has to be squeezed out of him for sure. But his account is, for the most part, consistent, and its impossible to believe he could have made such a thing up out of whole cloth -- or memorized a scenario fed to him by corrupt cops. When he calls his mother, he repeats many of the same things he told the detectives. It's only when she expresses shock and disbelief that he then backs away and tries to weasel out of it. Too late, Brendan, sorry.

      We shouldn't forget the initial testimony of Brendan's cousin, who reported that he'd confessed his involvement to her personally, well before the police interviews. It's not surprising that both would later recant, as family pressure to do so must have been enormous.

      Others were not investigated because there was such a ton of evidence pointing to Avery. Why implicate innocent people when you already know what happened?

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  13. Doc, I totally agree with you. There is just no evidence of a conspiracy. Dassey's confession is real, and frankly he doesn't seem all that dumb to me, just not smart enough to help carry out any kind of conspiracy. I too find it shocking that so many people want to question law enforcement on behalf of a human waste product like Steve Avery. If I ever need law enforcement because one of my own family members is brutally raped and murdered, you can bet that I want them to aggressively pursue the culprit(s). I don't want to hear any flack from any of you about due process and all that. I know what it is. I'm not even convinced that he should be exonerated from his first conviction. -LE

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    1. I agree with you LE, especially about Dassey's intelligence. Sure, he's not the brightest crayon in the box, but all that hesitation during interrogations is not a reflection of his IQ, in my opinion, but rather that he was thinking very hard about what to say and how it might incriminate him. I think he was a very troubled boy after this incident and was probably very afraid of Steven Avery, afraid of what his mom would think or do to him, and afraid he would be put in jail. He wanted to tell the truth but he was smart enough to know there would be consequences.

      If you watch his testimony at his trial (in the documentary), you see quite a different Brandan. He answers all the questions quickly and has very definite, precise answers, even when asked where he might have come up with a scenario like the one he described about Teresa being tied to the bed: from the book "Kiss the Girls", he says. He was obviously coached on his testimony. His answers and physical behavior during interrogations were much more natural and believable to me. And as I've said many times, I find it unbelievable that he would come up with that story -- with all its disturbing details (right down to seeing Teresa's toes in the fire) -- if he was completely innocent. He was there alright and he knows his uncle is a bad man that he got caught up with that day/night.

      Regarding a conspiracy by the Manitowoc County Sheriff's Office, I cannot buy into the belief that they wanted revenge on Avery because of his lawsuit. First of all, I would have to think there is some type of malpractice insurance that would cover any settlement awarded to Avery. Secondly, I can't imagine they would want to do something so risky after making major mistakes in the first case. I bet they just wanted Avery to settle his lawsuit and go away. They may not have liked the guy for various reasons, but to subject their department to possible future scrutiny and scandal is not something they surely would want to avoid. To frame someone like this they would have had to had some major personal grudges against him, and after watching interviews with all those cops, I just don't see any signs of that type of anger or hostility.

      bb

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  14. Spot on, bb. You are right - it is so obvious that Dassey was coached. -LE

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  15. The sheriff and district attorney were being sued individually as well as in their professional capacities, the county's coverage was, at most, probably $6M, and the county would be on the hook for any overage - possibly $30M, and the insurance carrier had indicated it planned to deny coverage.

    All witnesses, on both sides, are coached, rehearsed and scripted, always.
    CC

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    1. If setting him up was the plan, they certainly could have done it in a simpler, more straightforward way, that would not have involved driving a car onto Avery property, burning a corpse, moving the remains right next to Avery's trailer, right under his nose, convincing a simple-minded teen age kid to confess to a crime he didn't commit, planting evidence, etc., etc.

      They could simply have murdered some minor criminal they also had a grudge against, using one of Avery's guns, and planted some of his DNA on the victim's clothing. That would have been sufficient.

      We live in a world dominated by absurd movie and television scenarios that many now see as part of the normal course of things. So it's now all too easy for the naive and gullible to accept what in the past would have been an obviously paranoid world view.

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    2. The world we live in now is scary, Doc. I can't decide if citizens have been dumbed down by what they see on TV and in the media, or if they were always dumb and the media just exploits them. What was done to Teresa Halbach is pure evil. No one talks about her rights, and if they believe Avery and Dassey are innocent, you sure don't hear those same people anxious to find the real killer. There is no way law enforcement needed to commit an act of heinous evil to "set up" Avery. It is preposterous. I'm saddened too, by how many lawyers are out there in America who would rather get famous with these absurd cases than seek true justice. I tell a young relative who is planning to go to law school to above all, seek justice for innocent victims, and know evil when you see it. Teresa was the innocent victim here. Had she not gone to take a picture of a van, this would not have happened. What kind of nut out there thinks that law enforcement could stage the activities of a young photographer on that day? -LE

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  16. IMO-- B Dassey ain't as retarded as depicted -- and may be more involved in the rape than Avery, Avery done the murder assisted by BD-- Avery done the burning of the body,of the two he wood know that a couple of tires or more would produce enough fire and heat to cremate a body . Simple brush and wood or fuel will not do it. Robert

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  18. Cops maintain order and civilization by augmenting their cases (with planted evidence) in order guide naive jurors into rubberstamping their convictions.
    What goes around comes around.
    With that being the case, now that jurors know better, how can the system survive? How can any juror ever trust a cops word again?
    There will always be reasonable doubt.
    Like with any other court witness, we must look at reputation. We cannot automatically believe police.
    Most counties police probably have stellar reputations, but just like Caylee Anthony on the stand, apparently the cops in Wisconsin cannot be believed, making them fair game for the defense.
    And Mark Fuhrman lied on the stand Meaning he could have planted the glove) and this lie got OJ Simpson off.

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    1. All the evidence suggests that Fuhrman planted the blood. There is no evidence of that kind in the Avery case. The notion that their client is being framed is the last resort of lawyers faced with an open and shut case, which this one is. If you choose to believe every defense lawyer who decides to plant red herrings everywhere possible, then I suppose you can conclude our justice system is hopelessly corrupt. Sorry, but I find it easy to see through red herrings of this sort. Show me some real evidence backed up by facts and I'll take you seriously. Unsupported assumptions won't cut it.

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  19. What blood evidence are you suggesting Fuhrman planted? Not to get too far off course, here, but I do not recall that allegation being made during trial.
    CC

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    1. My memories of that trial are vague, but I do recall that the blood found on OJ's sock contained traces of the preservative routinely added to blood stored as evidence, meaning it had been planted, yes. And since the defense team managed to find a reporter who'd recorded an interview with Fuhrman, where he'd used the N-word, which he'd previously denied ever using, AND mentioned having planted evidence in the past, then it becomes very difficult to deny he planted this blood as well. That interview is what destroyed the prosecution case, and for good reason.

      Also, the blood evidence in general makes it very difficult to claim that OJ committed the crime on his own. If that were the case, we'd expect to see much more blood in his vehicle, and also in his home, than was actually found. According to Dr. Wecht, either OJ is innocent or he had an accomplice. But the prosecution foolishly insisted that he did it alone, which also weakened their case. From everything I've read about this case I feel convinced he participated, but almost certainly had an accomplice, as Wecht's comments make sense.

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  20. Anyone seriously interested in the Avery case should read the discussions on Reddit, which include scientists discussing EDTA and the dubious testing therefor in both Simpson and Avery, the transcript of the Avery trial, and links to factual material. Doc's opinions are just that.
    CC

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    1. Dubious testing or not, NO evidence has yet emerged supporting the defense contention that Avery's blood was planted. That's not an opinion, it's a fact. You can argue about EDTA until you're blue in the face, but all the defense ever had was innuendo, NOT evidence. It's always possible to argue that some more sensitive method might reveal important evidence that must be considered, but any lawyer could argue the same thing on behalf of ANY client, not just Avery.

      Even if it can be determined that the DNA testing in Avery's case was "dubious," all that would prove is the possibility the blood MIGHT have been planted. That to me is a classic red herring. There is no limit to the possibility that any evidence in any case could have been planted, not just this one. So why not let every criminal go free on that basis?

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  21. Right. Now just substitute "Simpson" for "Avery" in your first paragraph.

    You know perfectly well I'm not advocating we "let every criminal go". Why the sophistry?
    CC

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  22. Never mind, largely rhetorical.

    Anyway, anyone interested in facts can find a few on Reddit. Plenty of opinions, too, but some facts as well.
    CC

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  23. I recently started following Kathleen Zellner (@ZellnerLaw) on Twitter. She's currently Avery's defence lawyer and apparently is one of the go-to lawyers in the US for the wrongfully convicted. She recently tweeted that the police cannot say that the DNA on the hood latch was sweat, because apparently sweat does not contain DNA on its own.

    Perhaps this is just another red herring, because DNA can show up in sweat if that sweat has skin cells or blood mixed in.

    Maybe her point is that words matter and the people talking about certain pieces of evidence don't have the scientific knowledge that they should.

    Regardless, it will be interesting to follow her as she attempts to get Avery out of jail.

    I'm with CC on this one. I believe Stephen Avery probably did it, but the legal certainty of his guilt was not established by the prosecution. There was too much reasonable doubt.

    If you haven't yet seen this article, do a quick search for "This Is The Most Credible Making A Murderer Theory I've Seen So Far" on www.sunnyskyz.com. Whatever you might believe, it makes for interesting reading.

    And for those who believe 100% in Stephen Avery's guilt, no need to get upset. He was found guilty and jailed, after all. And we all know how difficult it is to free someone after those events have occurred, even if they're innocent.

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    1. "She recently tweeted that the police cannot say that the DNA on the hood latch was sweat, because apparently sweat does not contain DNA on its own."

      I agree. The prosecutor obviously knows nothing about DNA. They can't identify sweat as though it were blood. What they found was probably touch DNA. And unless the defense could prove it, which they could not, there is no reason to believe it was planted.


      As far as legal certainty is concerned: The legal certainty of Avery's guilt was established by the jury. The purpose of the reasonable doubt defense is not to convince the lawyers, the judge or even God Himself -- it's to convince the jury. The jury was not convinced. The case was appealed and the appeal was lost.

      So as far as the legalities are concerned, unless new evidence emerges, the case is over and done with.

      Now that does not mean we have the absolute truth, because the jury could have been wrong. But in the search for truth in this case, we must consider what really happened, rather than ponder the legal niceties, which seems to be CC's specialty. And when considering what really happened, as I see it there is no alternative to Avery's having committed this crime. The only evidence that might possibly exonerate him is based on the theory that the police set him up, and the notion that the police would have gone to all that trouble to set him up just seems preposterous. If they'd wanted to set him up they would have at the very least planted the victim's blood and DNA in Avery's bedroom, and they would not have waited seven days to do that. And they'd have chosen a simpler method, not one that requires them to drive a car onto Avery property, burn a body and move the remains right next to Avery's trailer, convince a teenage boy to implicate himself in murder, etc., etc.

      So if you want to make a federal case out of it, I suppose you can -- only it's too late, the case has been decided. But if you ask yourself honestly who dunnit, there is no other possible answer that I can see.

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  24. Doc, the Ramsey case fascinated me for years until I read your site and bought your book. You brilliantly solved the case and I commend you for that. However, I am questioning everything you've said about the Ramsey case after reading your conclusions on the Avery case. Your conclusions remind me of the person who looks at a conspiracy theory through the lens of "conspiracies never happen and therefore any evidence that shows the conspiracy happened is bullcrap and I can't take any of this seriously because people say it's a conspiracy so get off my lawn idiots"
    It's like we watched a totally different documentary. I don't even want to argue your points because you're just... wrong!

    The only thing that shows Steven had anything to do with the crime (because everything else was either planted (by police of by the real perpetrators) or was Brendan's "confession") was the EDTA.. and unlike you I do not think it is unreasonable the FBI would give an assist to their friends in the Wisconsin "justice" system.

    I started to refute your points but again it's not worth the time! It's like you just wanted to take the contrarian take just for the sake of doing it. You are way too trusting of the police.

    The real suspects IMO are Scott Tadych and Bobby Dassey. I find it way more likely they committed the crime and framed Steven independently of the cops. Colbourn finds the car on the Avery lot and the police realize they can pin Avery and avoid any investigation into their corruption. So the police plant the bullet, keys, blood and coerced the "confession" in good faith because Theresa's car was found on the Avery lot... only it was Bobby Dassey and Scott Tadych not Brenden and Steven who killed Theresa.

    I mean no disrespect to you, but your take on the Avery case is the PDI of the Ramsey case; frustrating and totally incorrect.

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    1. OK, good, I was hoping to get this sort of response, because you are expressing a very widely held opinion that in my view is not only wrong but seriously misguided and I welcome the opportunity to clarify my own position on this matter.

      First of all, I hope it was my arguments that convinced you on the Ramsey case, and not my opinions. If so, then my opinion on the Avery case should have no bearing on how you feel about my analysis of the Ramsey case. I could certainly be right about one and wrong about the other. I don't claim to be perfect.

      As far as both cases are concerned, you should be familiar with my method, which is to look first at the facts. And the facts of this case point straight to Steven Avery. There is no fact and in fact no evidence whatsoever that points to a conspiracy on the part of the police or anyone else to frame Avery. That's all just supposition, based on what people want to believe. And at this point in history, millions of people want to believe "the government" is corrupt and manipulative. Just as millions have convinced themselves that Patsy dunnit, so millions have convinced themselves that Avery was framed. As I see it, the facts of the case point in a very different direction.

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    2. And by the way, the so-called EDTA "evidence" is a perfect example of the sort of red herring tossed out there by defense lawyers in hopeless cases such as this one. There is NO EDTA evidence confirming that the blood was planted. All there is is the possibility that there might have been so little EDTA that the test didn't pick up on it. That won't wash, however, because they compared that sample with the sample from the vial and they DID find EDTA in the vial. Of course nothing is going to satisfy you if you're absolutely positively convinced it was planted, so go ahead and insist that the FBI must be "in on it" and the whole analysis must have been faked. You say you have no problem with that, which tells me you are the sort of person who refuses to be wrong about anything, regardless of the facts.

      Now, forgetting for a moment about the above details, we need to remind ourselves that there is NO evidence at all that the blood was planted. The attorney's only point is that some such evidence MIGHT possibly be found if only there were some better way of analyzing that blood. That's what I call a true red herring. A bit of meaningless evidence (or in this case lack of evidence) used to invoke reasonable doubt. No matter how many tests are done, the true believer will never be convinced. It's that sort of person red herrings were invented for.

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  25. There seems to be little discussion about Brandan Dassey's confession. I suppose it's because the majority of people dismiss his confession simply because his attorney was not present at the time he gave it, and/or because, as many believe, his IQ is so low he could easily have been coerced into coming up with a fake confession under pressure from the police.

    Come on people . . . really?? Brandon was obviously smart enough to be coached on his testimony for his trial and, in fact, if you watch him testify, he answers all the questions quickly and with certainty. During interrogation, he was certainly smart enough to know the cops were trying to elicit details of what happened to Teresa Halbach. The reason he was so slow in responding to their questions (albeit they were leading questions) wasn't because he was retarded, but because he was trying to weigh out the consequences of his responses. Brandan was very troubled over what happened to Teresa; enough that he confessed to his cousin, who then reported the story to a school counselor. It's just not probable that this cousin made up the story and then also went so far as to tell a school counselor. I work in a high school counseling office and I have seen the behaviors of many high schoolers when they have something they need to get off their chest. It is my belief that she felt the need to tell someone about Brandan's confession because she knew the seriousness of what he told her and she knew she should do the right thing and report it. As most of you know, she later recanted her story during her testimony at Brandon's trial because, I believe, she was afraid of the retribution she would receive from family members and possibly also Brandon since he suddenly said he made everything up. After all, how would that make her look if she testified against him?

    I agree with all those who feel it was despicable the way the cops conducted their questioning of Brandan. I, too, was shocked to watch those videos. But I never once felt that Brandan was under so much pressure to concoct such a detailed account of what happened to Teresa. Why on earth would he do that --- really??? He was smart enough to know the consequences of being part of her murder and/or coverup and if he were completely innocent, he would have said so . . . . over and over again, no matter how much pressure the cops put on him. Instead, I think there was a small part of his conscience that told him to do the right thing --- that he just could not live with the guilt anymore.

    So putting aside all discussion of planted evidence -- whether by the police or other family members --- the REAL evidence is in Brandon Dassey's story. He is the one and only witness to this horrific crime and I, for one, believe him.

    bb

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    1. Thanks, bb. I agree, the questioning of Brendan was crude and heavy handed, and yes they sometimes fed him the "right" answers, however indirectly. Nevertheless, it would have been clear from his cousin's report to her counselor that Branden was involved in the murder and that he'd witnessed Avery's involvement. So from their perspective this wasn't simply the questioning of a possible witness, but a completely justified attempt to squeeze the truth out of someone very reluctant to say anything at all. And yes, the long silences have nothing to do with his being "retarded" and everything to do with his knowledge of his own involvement and also his fear of retribution, not only from Steven, but his entire family.

      When they claim they are on his side, that might sound deceptive, yes -- but if he'd fully cooperated with the police from the start that could easily have earned him a reduced sentence, so in that sense they are trying to help him. As a minor with a learning disability he would probably have gotten only a few years -- if he'd been willing to testify against Steven. Instead he is now in for life. What a shame!

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  26. You might benefit from some research into the coercive Reid method of interrogation used in this country, which has been supplanted by the PEACE method in the UK and Canada.
    CC

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    1. I don't need to do the research, CC. The drawbacks of Dassey's interrogations are all too obvious. There are many places where I cringed at the heavy handed questioning, the continual reminders to "be honest" and "we're on your side," "it's OK," etc. It's a method that could all too easily be abused, yes. Does it mean Dassey's eye witness testimony can be discounted? Sorry, but I don't see how.

      Tell me, what do YOU think happened with Dassey? Was he simply picked out as the chosen victim even though the police knew he was innocent and had no knowledge of what happened? They chose him because he was too feeble minded to resist being manipulated? They fed him all the many details and then somehow got him to spew it all back to them with the camera rolling? And what about his teen age cousin? They convinced her to report a total lie to her counselor? Did they pay her off, maybe, with the promise of a college scholarship or something like that?

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  27. I gave you my thoughts on Brendan in my last post on Part Two.

    As you know, I do not believe there was a police conspiracy to frame Avery. I do believe it perfectly possible, even likely that one cop helped things along, as unlike you I cannot disavow government corruption in the form of "ends justify the means" thinking. It's prevalent at all levels, from Nixon/Vietnam and Bush/Iraq right on down to prosecutors and street cops. It's wrong, and it's epidemic.
    CC

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  28. CC, I won't deny that the possibility of planted evidence always exists -- in ANY setting, not just this one. But I see no evidence supporting the claims of Avery's lawyers that anything was planted in this particular case. I agree that some of the circumstances do seem suspicious. But that in itself isn't enough to warrant the certainty that so many have in that regard, thanks to this documentary, which you yourself agree is heavily biased.

    When we see over and over these lawyers continually pointing to certain circumstances that THEY find suspicious, then it's not difficult to understand how gullible viewers could be influenced by that. In Nazi Germany it was known as the theory of the "Big Lie" and consciously used in their propaganda. If you repeat a lie often enough, it will come to be accepted. Those guys knew what they were doing -- and so do Avery's lawyers.

    In my view, there is NOTHING suspicious about someone finding a piece of evidence only after a lapse of time. Especially since investigators bent on planting evidence could easily have done so from the start. It's only because the lawyers continually harp on that delay, with the encouragement of these extremely naive filmmakers, that it's come to be accepted as true by so many viewers.

    People are saying, "Hey, why did it take them so long to find that key? Sounds suspicious to me." When in fact it would be just as "suspicious" if they'd found it on the first day. And in fact moreso.

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  29. Godwin's Law . . . I win.
    CC

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    1. Hah! Touché.

      This blog started four years ago, and this, to my knowledge, is the first time the word "Nazi" has appeared, either in a post or a comment. I'd think the statute of limitations for Godwin's law ran out some time ago.

      Good try though. :-)

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  30. Dateline is doing Avery tonight at 10:00 Eastern.
    CC

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    1. Thanks, CC. The timing was perfect. I read your post just after 10 and immediately ran downstairs to watch the show.

      I'm consistently impressed with Dateline's coverage and this was no exception. I thought their presentation was balanced and fair. The handling of the blood evidence was especially thorough, and both sides were given an opportunity to make their best case.

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  31. Hey, Canuck, I noticed you posted a query to Doc last night, and I wondered if you'd expand on your belief there was reasonable doubt in the Avery case?
    CC

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  32. Has the Id channel shown Avery guilty or innocent in the US yet, if was on tv in the UK last night

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  33. Hi Doc. I'm another reader with great respect for you and your work on the Ramsey case (and yes, after reading the blog, I'm convinced JDI). However, I'm not yet convinced that Avery and Dassey are guilty. I keep getting stuck on the following:

    1) I agree that as it stands, "Making a Murderer" is a documentary about the defense case, and certainly not an unbiased documentary about the case as a whole. However, I understand the filmmakers asked the prosecution to participate and they declined. Why? Why didn't they want to participate? Even if only by providing a post-verdict interview -- why not take the opportunity to tell their side and rebut the defense arguments? There's obviously going to be interest in a case as strange and high-profile as this one, and surely the prosecution realized this. Especially considering the (at the time) pending civil lawsuit, the shady involvement of Manitowoc County in the Halbach investigation, etc.

    2) The prosecution's repeated response to the mere mention of any possibility of corruption in the county - "the employees of Manitowoc County are good decent upstanding citizens, OMG how dare anyone ever question their integrity in any way!" This rubs me the wrong way and makes me believe something fishy's going on. Appearing to be a "good upstanding citizen" doesn't, and shouldn't, make anyone immune to being questioned or scrutinized when things don't look right.
    When one of the police officers was asked, on the stand, something like "did you plant this evidence?" his answer wasn't just a clear, firm "no, I did not," it was a petulant, personally-insulted "no...and this is the first time my integrity's ever been questioned in my life!" They act as if it is more ethically wrong for a cop to be accused of corruption than it would be for a cop to be corrupt. To the point it seems like quite a deflection, hiding behind uniforms and titles when the questions get too uncomfortable.

    3) What was Avery's motive and why would he have murdered Halbach when he did? Avery was very likely set to receive a considerable sum of money from his civil lawsuit. So why on earth would he commit a murder before the conclusion of that lawsuit? If it's true that he wanted to live out an elaborate rape/murder fantasy, why wouldn't he have waited until *after* he got his big payout from the county? After receving that money he could have gone anywhere and built himself the finest, most secure murder/torture chamber in all the land if that's what he wanted to do.

    4) That Dassey "confession." I have read the full transcripts and watched the interviews - mostly from links posted by redditers convinced of Avery's guilt -- and I keep trying to be open-minded and see where he volunteers any useful information without being fed the "correct answers"... but I'm just not seeing it. I see a confused kid, intimidated by authority, who doesn't understand half the words flying around his head (yikes, that phone conversation with his mother - "what does 'inconsistent' mean, Mom?" "Hmm...I'm not too sure.." "Do you think it means, like, false?" "I'm not too sure..." ) and the authorities swiftly take advantage of those weaknesses. Got the same impression from Kayla Avery. I'd be really interested in reading something that points out *specific sections or quotes* from Dassey/Kayla Avery that convinced individuals of Steven Avery/Dassey's guilt.

    QuQu

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    1. 1. I think the prosecutors refused to participate because they sensed that this treatment of the case was not going to be unbiased and no matter what they said they'd be made to look bad.

      2. I don't think they were hiding behind their uniforms or anything like that, I think they were justifiably indignant.

      3. What we already knew about Avery prior to this case was that he was someone who didn't worry much about the consequences. After all, he all but raped the wife of a sheriff's deputy! That's the case with many psychopaths. It's all about instant gratification. Such people often have drives they can't control.

      4. The Dassey videos are difficult to watch because he is torn between two very different emotions: the need to come clean, because imo this is someone with a very real conscience, not a psychopath; and a need to cover up what happened, most likely out of fear of Avery but also fear of his own family, who would likely never forgive him for "ratting out" his uncle. So it takes him forever to get things out and he's not always eager to come forward with all the details. They literally have to be dragged out of him.

      If you focus only on certain parts of the interchange you can come away feeling he's being prompted to say certain things. But the more you watch, and listen, the clearer it becomes that he was there and that he witnessed something pretty horrible.

      For me all doubts were removed by listening to the following interchange between him and his mother (https://www.reddit.com/r/MakingaMurderer/comments/3y9ulo/transcript_of_brendan_dassey_phone_call_to_mother/):

      B. Ya. But if I came out with it, I would probably get I dunno, about like, 20 or less. After the interview they told me if I wanted to say something to her family and said that I was sorry for what I did.
      M. Then Steven did do it.
      J. Ya
      M. (crying) Why didn't you tell me about this?
      B. Ya, but they came out with something that was untrue with me
      M. What's that
      B. They said that I sold crack.

      His mother says Steven did it and he responds, "Ya." Then he says that what they got wrong was that he sold crack, which he denies. He does NOT deny being involved in the murder, which he would certainly have done if it weren't true. His mother is NOT manipulating him, OK? She is obviously upset. It would have been easy for him to deny any involvement at that point. But he says, very simply, "Ya." I can't imagine him lying to his mother about something like that. The whole dialogue is consistent with his involvement, his knowledge of Avery's involvement, and his fear of "pissing him off."

      How is it possible to misunderstand something like that? If at some other point he denies it, so what? He's obviously under tremendous stress from Avery and his family to recant, which finally he did.

      I think it's a shame he got life for this. He was just a kid and he wasn't very bright and he was easily intimidated by Steven, which should be obvious. If he'd stuck with his original lawyer, he could have cut a deal and would probably be out by now. Instead his lawyer was obviously under the thumb of the two creeps "defending" Avery, who by no means wanted any sort of deal. These two as far as I'm concerned are the lowest of the low.

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    2. How, and by what means, did Buting and Strang have Brendan's public defender "under the[ir] thumb"?

      I disagree with your statements that they were "two creeps" and "the lowest of the low". Why do you personalize this? I think they did an exceptional job with very little.
      CC

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    3. Well, just as you are inferring malfeasance on the part of the authorities, I'm inferring malfeasance on the part of the defense lawyers. Only I think my case is stronger than yours.

      The reason I think Dassey's public defender was under the thumb of Avery's lawyers is very simple. Dassey's self-incrimination, if you actually view the interviews and read the transcripts (see above), is incontrovertible. There is little question that he'd be found guilty of something, though not necessarily murder one, so it was in his best interests to cooperate with the authorities, and testify against his uncle. His original lawyer understood this very well, so the family got rid of him.

      The second lawyer did NOT do what was best for Brendan but what was best for Avery -- to me that is crystal clear. Brendan was just a kid, he had clearly been intimidated by Avery and a case could easily have been made for a relatively light sentence of maybe 5 to 10 years at most. By arguing that his client had nothing to do with the murder, and had produced a false confession, in the face of all the very incriminating things Dassey is known to have said, not only to the detectives but also his cousin and his mother, his lawyer left the system no choice but to prosecute him for murder one. Which they did, and of course he was convicted. Surprise surprise.

      Now of course there were many questionable things that took place during Brendan's interrogations, but there were just too many things he obviously knew and too many things he said, for anyone to simply dismiss his testimony as some sort of "false confession." Sure, he played games with his interrogators, he often lied, and his testimony was inconsistent because he lied -- NOT because he'd been fed a long and complicated scenario. The guys who questioned him were not from Manitowoc County, so what motive would they have had to set up this pathetic, slow witted kid?

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    4. As far as Avery's lawyers are concerned, I regard them as creeps because they served their own interests and not those of their client. They were, and still are, "on a mission" to discredit the law enforcement system, and saw this case as their opportunity to do so. Instead of defending their client in the most effective manner possible, they used him as a pawn to make a case of their own against the integrity of law enforcement. Their defense had little to do with Avery, and amounted to a systematic inquisition of the Manitowoc sheriff's office, based PURELY on character assassination and innuendo, Joe McCarthy style. In the face of all the obvious evidence of their client's guilt, his best course would have been a guilty plea in return for a reduced sentence - which could have been reduced further on the basis of his earlier false imprisonment.

      Because they chose to use him for their own purposes, he is instead in for life with no parole. The jury saw through their absurd "defense" but now the case has been presented to the public by filmmakers who are also on the same "mission" as the lawyers. Their film plays into a long standing conviction on the part of many citizens that "big government" is responsible for all sorts of nefarious doings. Witness the recent occupation of the federal game preserve by a bunch of self-styled "patriots."

      Sure, there have been serious abuses on the part of law enforcement, no question. But in every case we see clear evidence of that, not just accusations on the part of a criminal with no other possible defense. Many criminals claim they've been "set up" by the police -- it's the last resort of a scoundrel. Such accusations are meaningful only when accompanied by real evidence, not vague accusations based on what might possibly have happened, or "motives" that might or might not mean anything.

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  34. For me it was the phone calls from SA to TH. He blocked his number, used his sister's phone until the 4:30 call and message asking why she didn't show up, an obvious ploy.

    I've got problems with a lot of the other evidence, and I thought the defense attorneys raised plenty of reasonable doubt, but those phone calls suggest both premeditation and consciousness of guilt.
    CC

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    1. I'm willing to concede that there is room for some doubt regarding some of the evidence, but imo it doesn't meet the standard of reasonable doubt. Even if it did, reasonable doubt regarding the meaning of some evidence is NOT the same as reasonable doubt regarding the case as a whole, which to me looks airtight. I agree that those phone calls are pretty incriminating, but the clincher for me is Dassey's testimony AND the blood evidence in Teresa's car.

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    2. Reasonable doubt is entirely subjective - different jurors, different standards - that's why we get hung juries.

      In this case, the juror who was released because of a family emergency said when he left it was 7-5 in favor of acquittal. Another, in a post-trial interview, said they wanted to acquit, but were afraid. It isn't just Canuck and I, 60,000 Redditors, and half a million petitioners who see reasonable doubt.
      CC

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    3. CC, you yourself have said from the start that you're convinced of Avery's guilt. So when you invoke "reasonable doubt," what exactly do you mean by that? As I mentioned above, reasonable doubt applied to certain pieces of evidence does NOT amount to reasonable doubt regarding the case as a whole. And obviously you agree, or you'd be arguing for Avery's innocence.

      I think you're allowing yourself to get caught in a lawyer's trap of mistaking strict legal rectitude for truth. Even if evidence had been planted, which I certainly question, that doesn't make the defendant innocent -- though, IF PROVEN, it could form the basis for an appeal and a second trial.

      Do you really want to argue that Avery deserves a second trial, despite his obvious guilt?

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    4. Yes , I do.
      CC

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    5. Despite the lack of ANY evidence of misconduct on the part of the authorities -- purely on the basis of possible motive?

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    6. I see clear misfeasance on the part of the MCSD, if not outright malfeasance as so many Redditors find, and Calumet County apparently colluded with their brothers in blue.

      The trial was badly adjudicated at every turn.

      Motive doesn't matter as much to me as to a lay person, but I've gotta' tell you, Doc, in my experience juries love motive, they need motive, need a story, so from that pov, yeah, motive is shaky.

      The trial transcripts illustrate my first two points much more graphically than MaM.
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  35. i think i posted on the wrong newest post.
    Anyway, i was asking if anyone had watched steven avery innocent or guilty. it was shown on saturday in the uk. A very fair account of both sides i thought.

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    1. I'm not in the UK, so didn't see it. Hopefully it will be available soon in the States. I don't have cable, by the way, so there are certain shows I never get to see. :-(

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  36. I saw it last night, evej. It wasn't bad. Nothing new, but not bad.

    On another note, the Fox miniseries on OJ starts tonight at 10 Eastern.
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  37. I agree with your post regarding the phone calls, that sealed it for me too

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    1. I'm always interested in your take, and Canuck's, as outside observers of America's judicial system.
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  38. Well it's certainly confusing, especially when for instance, you hear someone commits a murder in one state and gets a few years, executed in another, and life in another not even for murder. There was a case i heard about in the states, where a young adult was tried for murder even though he only accompanied a group for a robbery that went wrong and didn't even know one of the group was carrying a weapon.
    Then of course you have this double jeopardy.
    The judicial system in S.Africa with the oscar pistorius case even had me baffled LOL.

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  39. I'd give you examples and argue with you, Doc, but there doesn't seem to be much point. Your mind is made up and closed and you aren't willing to do any research or further reading. You remind me of some of your PDIers.

    We've disputed the key from the get go, so just answer me this: Why isn't Teresa's DNA anywhere on the key or lanyard? Why is the key her valet key, when the now-famous photo of her standing in front of her RAV, smiling, show her holding a keyring loaded with keys? Why did it take seven searches to find?
    CC

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    1. I have in fact been doing more reading on this case, and as a result am able to respond to your questions, CC.

      DNA often doesn't show up, it's far from automatic, just like fingerprints. Recall that, according to Kolar, JR's DNA was not found on JonBenet's garments, though Patsy's and Burke's was. How could that be, since John carried her into the house after the party, and retrieved her body from the basement? You'd assume his DNA would have been all over her, but it wasn't. Why? I have no idea, but it's obviously not a sure thing.

      Also, as I understand from my readings on the Avery case, old DNA is often covered over by a fresh layer, and cannot be retrieved. Doesn't mean her DNA wasn't there or was removed, it's just been obliterated by his. And by the way, the presence of his DNA on that key is beside the point. What's important is that it was found in his bedroom.

      The key that was found was apparently a spare key -- probably retrieved from her purse. But even if it had originally been on a ring with other keys, it's certainly possible that Avery removed it from the ring and got rid of the other keys. According to Dassey he'd been planning to crush the car and would have needed the key to do that.

      From what I've been reading, the first few searches were directed at specific targets in the room, looking for specific things, such as blood evidence or DNA. It was only the last two or three that involved the entire room. Apparently Avery had jammed the key into the woodwork of the little table, hoping it would not be found and it was only when the table was shaken that it popped out.

      Could it have been planted? Technically yes, but as I see it, if the intention had been to plant evidence the best time to do it would have been right away, not after six searches. And why not plant her blood and DNA all over the bedroom if the intention had been to set him up?

      Also, according to Dassey's most recent interrogation, in which he provided the most detail, she was not stabbed at all in the bedroom, but in the garage. Dassey eventually denied slitting her throat, but claimed he stabbed her in the stomache. That last interview is one of the most fascinating documents of its kind I've ever seen, by the way. I'm tempted to do a blog post on it. If you're interested in contributing a post of your own on this topic, let me know.

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    2. It wasn't removed from a keyring. It was a valet key, on a lanyard given Teresa by her mother. Women don't carry their spare key in their purse - that would make as much sense as you carrying yours in a separate pants pocket. So somehow SA got his hands on this spare key attached to a bulky lanyard, probably kept in her home, and jammed the whole thing into a nook or crevice in that nightstand. And you'd have us believe it just fell out when Lenk and Sergeant Colborn shook the thing - DESPITE the fact that the photo of the found key shows a remote control, spare change and other objects undisturbed on top of said nightstand. Not buying it, Doc.
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  40. I don't believe SA ever budged from alleging his innocence, even to his attorneys, but insisted he was framed. Deprived of a SODDIT defense by Denny and in the face of their client's recalcitrance, they had no choice but to proceed as they did.
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    1. Not so. Once it became clear he was guilty as Hell, then, if he nevertheless refused to take a plea, the proper thing for an ethical lawyer to do would be retire from the case altogether. Especially if the only alternative would be to go after the authorities investigating the case and pretend your client is some sort of victim of "the system." These guys were not stupid, his guilt was obvious to anyone familiar with the evidence. You think they actually believed someone from the sheriff's office would go so far as to burn a corpse and then carry the remains to the Averys' property and dump it right in front of the guy's trailer? Or drive the victim's car onto the Avery lot?

      They knew. They had to know. And yet they chose to ignore the obvious and pursue some sort of paranoid crusade against "law enforcement." If they had any sort of conscience they have withdrawn from the case as soon as Avery refused to consider a plea bargain.

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    2. The Bar Code and Standard of Ethics in my state make no such provision. Your argument is ridiculous on its face. Attorneys knowingly represent clients they know are guilty as a matter of course; in fact, they are ethically bound to do so, and to do so by whatever means available.

      I thought we had a deal? You don't attempt to practice law, I don't screw around with iambic pentameter.
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    3. Not every lawyer would agree:

      From the website nolo.com (http://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/i-told-lawyer-i-m-planning-telling-lie-the-stand-what-happen.html):

      Criminal defense attorneys have a duty to zealously represent their clients and guard their confidences. However, they also have a duty to the court not to present evidence that they know is false, fraudulent, or perjured, whether it’s coming from the defendant or a witness whom the lawyer knows intends to lie. A lawyer who knowingly uses or presents perjured testimony risks serious consequences. Under the profession’s code of ethics (the Canons of Professional Ethics of the American Bar Association), doing so subjects the lawyer to discipline—and quite possibly, disbarment.

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    4. You're referring to subornation of perjury, of which Strang and Buting were not guilty, as they presented no false testimony, a different issue Their client told them he was framed, that's the case they were obligated to present, as vigorously as possible, regardless of their personal beliefs as to innocence.
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  41. LE did not investigate anyone other than SA. That, to my way of thinking, is not a proper investigation but merely a search for corroboration. And yes, that implies malfeasance.
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    1. And before pontificating further on the sanctity of LE, please read this linked article. You're being naive if you don't think cops routinely plant evidence and falsify testimony. It's become endemic to their culture.

      http://thefreepressthoughtproject.com/officer-reveals-planting-evidence-lying-part-of-game/

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    2. "LE did not investigate anyone other than SA."

      Yes, because all the evidence pointed to him and no one else.

      And just because cops have confessed to planting evidence (as did Mark Fuhrman), does NOT entitle anyone to assume evidence was planted in the Avery case. In fact one of the reasons I feel so sure of Avery's guilt is the fact that no blood or DNA of the victim was found in or around the bed. Any cop intent on planting evidence would have been a fool not to plant such evidence where it would have the greatest impact.

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  42. You're making the same mistake with Brendan's attorney you're making with Steve's - that they arrive at their defense strategy in some sort of vacuum, devoid of client input.
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    1. Your client cannot expect you to lie for him in court. You work for your client, you are not his slave.

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    2. I see no evidence of anyone asking his attorney (s) to lie for him. SA maintained his innocence. Brendan changed his story. Lawyers can only proceed based on information provided. We are not, thankfully, required to be psychics.
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  43. Here's another question for you, Doc. Why, if Brendan's "confessions" were so persuasive and so untainted, didn't the prosecutor put him on the stand in Avery's trial?

    I think his failure to do so is what persuaded Barb Janda that her son's defense would be best served by alleging coercion and recantation, not some grand scheme on the part of Buting and Strang.
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    1. As I understand it, he would have invoked his Fifth amendment rights and thus could not be forced to testify.

      More important, however, is the fact that Dassey was a loose canon. His interviews are full of contradictions and there's no telling what he'd say in court if brought to the witness stand. Leaving him out of it was the best strategy, especially because there was so much other evidence of Avery's guilt.

      The more I read from the transcripts, the more Dassey fascinates me. I don't buy the "false confession" meme for one instant, not in this case. But his testimony certainly presented a challenge for the investigators. At time it almost seems as though they are the fools, and he's just playing them. I have a feeling that much of what he says and doesn't say is due to careful prompting from Avery and the family.

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  44. CC: "It wasn't removed from a keyring. It was a valet key, on a lanyard given Teresa by her mother. Women don't carry their spare key in their purse - that would make as much sense as you carrying yours in a separate pants pocket."

    Actually I do just that. In the past I've accidentally locked myself out(my wife did the same thing once also), so I always keep a spare handy. Teresa probably did the same. Or are you saying the police somehow persuaded her mother to give them the key so they could plant it? Now she's in on it as well?

    As far as the condition of the table, I'm sorry but it's very easy to draw assumptions from a photo. We have no way of knowing what happened after the key was discovered. Nor should we assume we know exactly what happened when the key fell from it. It's very easy to close one's eyes and imagine what happened and from my experience it's even more easy to get it wrong.

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    1. TH didn't live at home; remember the roommate? Her brother, Mike, went to her place the night she disappeared, the night he and the boyfriend and roommate (or some combination thereof) accessed her voicemail - and potentially erased messages, as the Cingular rep testified someone did. One of those uninvestigated gents could have helpfully given LE her spare key.

      Gravity being what it is, I'm going with Newton on the nightstand. If LE replaced objects on its surface before photographing the key in situ they're committing yet another breach of proper procedure.
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  45. Sorry for the delay, CC, but I just saw your request for more information a couple days ago and it took me some time to get all this down. I'll try to elaborate further, but the crux of my problem with the case is the lack of procedural standards. Even though I find the phone call evidence quite damning against Avery, I very much believe that standards and proper procedures were disregarded in this case.

    I believe:

    1. Theresa's brother and ex-boyfriend found her car while trespassing on the Avery compound and then lied about it. That's why they specifically gave the woman who found the car a camera and told her to go to the salvage yard and not to touch anything. Of all the searchers taking part, the woman was the only one issued a camera. Her story about god leading her to the car in five minutes was bizarre.

    2. Officer Colburn found Theresa's car while she was still a missing person, phoned in her license plate to HQ, and then lied about it on the stand.

    3. The lab technician ignored proper procedure in her DNA tests. Wait, I don't have to just believe this one. The lab tech testified to that fact while on the stand.

    4. The police did not obtain proper/sufficient warrants for the search of the Avery compound. How one warrant turned into a free for all to keep a property hostage for eight days is beyond me. I'm not a lawyer myself, but I'm pretty sure warrants have to cover specific areas for a specific time frame. Feel free to correct me if I'm wrong about any of this, CC.

    5. The key was planted -- and planted by Lenz for that matter. This officer should never have been allowed to set foot on the Avery property. The MCSD lied when they assured the public they were only there to provide equipment needed. And the police maintaining that the key fell out from behind a cabinet and somehow managed to fall underneath a slipper is just silly. If they had just followed police procedure and protocol and actually done what they assured the public they would do, Lenz would never have been granted access, the key could have been discovered by a legitimate officer (if it was actually there), and all this speculation could have been avoided.

    6. Prosecutor Ken Kratz ignored his ethical duty when he gave the public that twisted account of Theresa's murder, and tainted the jury pool as a result. (The case should have been tried in a different county, far from Manitowoc.)

    7. The juror who was related to one of the MCSD's officers should never have been allowed to pass judgement. Another juror was also reported to be related to a county employee. These two were likely biased against Avery and should have been dismissed from serving on the jury.

    8. The police denied Avery his right to consult an attorney by hiding him in the days after his arrest. First they said they didn't know where he was but, upon realizing how ridiculous that sounded, the sheriff quickly reversed himself and said he DID know where Avery was, but they weren't allowing him access to an attorney at that time. They denied Avery his Miranda rights.

    I know it may sound strange that I would profess my belief in Avery's probable guilt while also saying he shouldn't have been convicted (or, at minimum, should get a new trial) but, as I said earlier, my issue is with standards and proper police procedures. These things are there to protect the integrity of the police force, and also to protect people accused of crimes.

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    1. Thanks, Canuck. Everything you say regarding violations of proper procedure makes sense. There are certainly some instances in this case where it does look like proper procedures were violated. The folks from the Manitowoc sheriff's office should not have been involved in any aspect of this case, that's for sure.

      It is not at all certain that evidence was planted, however -- that's another matter entirely. If there were good reason to assume evidence was planted, then Avery's lawyers would probably have sued -- but clearly they did not, because they had no case. And as I've said before, there are far more effective ways to plant evidence if that's what you are up to.

      My own take on procedural questions is that anyone in LE who violates some law or rule should be held personally accountable for the violation -- BUT their behavior should have no bearing on the outcome of the trial. In other words, the jury should be trusted to come to a just decision regardless of such violations, so long as the violations are made clear to them, so they can properly assess the consequences for themselves. LE who violate such rules can and should be prosecuted, but that should have no bearing on the case at hand.

      Of course, our system doesn't work that way, but don't forget: the jury had its say; the appeals court had its say. All these issues were brought out in the trial and appeal and they were not sufficient to help Avery's case. End of story.

      We are not on any jury. We are not constrained by any procedural rules. So when it comes to arguing as to whether or not Avery got a raw deal as far as I'm concerned he did not and deserves the punishment he got. The one who got the raw deal was his victim.

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    2. I fully agree with your final statement, Doc. Theresa Halbach is the true victim and she is all too often ignored in discussions about this case.

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  46. Pt. 2

    I know police are human and make mistakes but, with all the blatant procedural errors I see here, Avery should not have been convicted. Most of the search and what was uncovered at the Avery compound should have been thrown out because of the invalid warrant.

    If the young men had told the truth about finding the car, perhaps that evidence would have been thrown out as well.

    If these standards and practices are in place for a reason, they need to be abided by as closely as possible. Much of this investigation was not on the up and up. Shoddy police work (and vindictiveness) wrongfully convicted Avery the first time. Police procedure should have been doubly adhered to the second time around...but it wasn't.

    The way I see it, if following proper procedure isn't important for one of us, it isn't important for any of us. There was a case in Canada several years ago involving an Iranian-Canadian woman who was tortured and murdered in police custody after being arrested in Iran. The Canadian gov't tried to negotiate her release but to no avail. Canadian representatives wanted to attend her trial, but were denied. The Iranian gov't refused to recognize her Canadian citizenship.

    Some people here argued that, while her death was tragic, she wasn't really a Canadian and so we needn't worry about it. I disagreed. She was granted Canadian citizenship and issued a Canadian passport. I argued that she was indeed Canadian and if that status could be so easily disregarded in her case, then none of us should feel safe, even if we were born in Canada. I argued that her citizenship status had to mean something, despite the fact that they stripped her of it so readily.

    It's the same in the Avery case. If authorities can ignore the most basic procedures and lie to the public but still obtain a conviction for one man, then they can do it for anyone. No one should feel safe.

    People can come back and say that they believe Avery is guilty and his incarceration DOES make them feel safe, and that's fine. I, too believe he's probably guilty. What I'm saying is the way the conviction is achieved matters. It just has to. Otherwise, what's the point of having these standards and procedures at all?

    Imagine if you were being accused of a crime, and you knew the police investigating you were playing fast and loose with proper police procedures. I'm quite sure you would believe that the way your case came together mattered greatly.

    Sorry, I know this is already long, but I also wanted to quickly mention Dassey. I saw an ex-FBI profiler talking about the case online a few days ago. He studied Dassey's confessions closely and said there is only one time in all the hours of interrogation where Dassey speaks clearly, fluidly, and of his own volition. He maintained that Dassey said during this time that he had helped his uncle move the body after Theresa was already dead. (I believe he said Avery called and asked him to come over to help with something.) The profiler said, based on what he knows about guilty people and the way they talk in interrogations, this was the only part of Dassey's story that even remotely rang true to him. I certainly don't believe Dassey should be serving a life sentence for this. It's kind of equivalent to what Jay Wilds admitted to doing in the Adnan Syed case. And you'll remember that Wilds never spent a day in prison (despite the fact that the fine details of his story changed from telling to telling).

    Thanks.

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    1. "I know police are human and make mistakes but, with all the blatant procedural errors I see here, Avery should not have been convicted."

      Really? So you see yourself as standing above the judge and above the jury and above the appeals court. Your knowledge of this case, based on an extremely biased TV series and various "facts" garnered from the Internet, gives you some special insight not afforded the judge or jury in this case?

      There are always going to be procedural errors and mixups in any case and a smart defense lawyer is paid to ferret them out. That's what Avery's lawyers did here and their results were amplified by a shamelessly biased "documentary." All these issues came up in the trial and were dealt with by the judge and the appeals court. And it's not at all clear from what you might have seen in the film or on the Internet, exactly what happened. From what I've read, the people doing the search initially had permission from the Avery family to search their lot. So as far as I can tell, no warrant was needed.

      As far as Dassey is concerned, I agree he got a raw deal. But as I see it that was his lawyer's fault for not urging him to testify against his uncle. In any case he certainly does not deserve life in prison as he was clearly being manipulated by someone more clever, older and stronger than he, and also far more dangerous. Hopefully he'll win an appeal and get time served, which seems fair.

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  47. Canuck is correct to "set himself above" the judge and jury, as is anyone who cares about the judicial system. The trial was rife with judicial error. The jury pool was hopelessly tainted. Two jurors should have been disqualified.

    I don't understand how you can defend the LE investigation or the integrity of the trial, but so be it. I take heart from the fact that, so far as I can tell, you have only two supporters, and their arguments are as emotionally based and shrill as Nancy Grace's and your own.
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    1. I'm surprised to see such a response from someone claiming to be conversant with the legal process. All jurors are routinely reviewed by the defense and any would have been excused if Avery's lawyers thought they might be biased.

      It astonishes me that someone as obviously intelligent and knowledgeable as you is unable to see through the smoke and mirrors emitted by Avery's legal team. You claim to be convinced of his guilt, yet you neverthless defend him. My oh my. This is a cold blooded killer and you want to see him given another trial, in which he could be released to commit more horrendous crimes?

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  48. I am not defending Avery. I am, emphatically, defending the judicial system and everyone's right to a fair trial, even a cold-blooded killer.

    Voir dire was not included in the trial transcripts, so there's no way to be sure, but perhaps the defense had exhausted its challenges.

    What you call "smoke and mirrors" I call the only viable defense available. I have no trouble viewing it with a jaundiced eye, but that does not change my perspective on the improprieties of the trial.
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  49. I have made numerous comments on earlier blogs. I have even made contact with the boulder police over the internet a short time after the murder. I was misunderstood and discouraged by the way they interpreted my Email. But most of all I was concerned for my safety and my young daughters. So I just didn't try to talk anymore about it. I couldn't take a chance that the police would again misunderstand me and try and name me as a possible suspect, or put my daughter and I in danger. I would be grateful to share my story, in person, with Boulder Police. Then they could differentiate fact or theory and I can finally put this life changing experience behind me, because what I know is very real to me, I have lived in fear for so many years,tbis is not a joke. I am a brutally honest person and hate liars and thieves. My email is, shoadley@cox.net please respond

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    1. If you think you know something about the Ramsey case, I'll be happy to read anything you'd like to send me. If you prefer privacy you can email me at: doktorgosh@live.com

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