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Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Some Observations Regarding the "Making a Murderer" Documentary

I rarely comment here on anything but the Ramsey case. But from time to time, as with the Amanda Knox case, I find myself compelled to speak out in defense of justice. The murder of Teresa Halbach, as presented in the so-called documentary, "Making a Murderer," is such a case. I write "so-called" because this 10 part film, now available via Netflix, is not a documentary at all, but a propaganda film, shamelessly serving the interests of Avery's defense team. I'm reminded of the notorious A&E "documentary" put together by Michael Tracey to whitewash the Ramseys. What's particularly disturbing in both cases is the powerful influence of such films on the mind of the public. At some point in our history, it would seem, critical thinking seems to have been supplanted by media hype. So now we have a situation where literally millions of Americans are convinced that the conviction of a vicious rapist and murderer, practically caught in the act, is a travesty of justice performed by a conspiracy involving both corrupt police officials and the FBI. I can't cover everything that bothers me about this treatment of the case, but I'd like to share some pertinent observations:

1. To give credit where credit is due, the film does lay out many important aspects of the case, including much of the large body of evidence pointing to the accused. Where things go wrong is not with the presentation of the evidence (though certain key facts are omitted), but with the manner in which the defense team, the accused, and his family, are treated sympathetically and given far more time than the prosecution to express their views. Over and over again, to the point of sheer tedium, we hear Avery reminding us of how innocent he is and how he is once again being "set up" by the same people who unjustly prosecuted him in the earlier case. Over and over again, we see clips of his parents endlessly asserting the same thing, often in exactly the same words. Especially troubling is the inordinate length of time devoted to the many indignant comments and accusations on the part of Avery's two leading defense attorneys, sometimes bordering on paranoia, all too eager to employ methods of character assassination and guilt by innuendo reminiscent of the tactics of Joe McCarthy and his sidekick Roy Cohn during the "commie" witch hunts of the 50's.

2. While it's true that the authorities who initially prosecuted Avery must have been seriously embarrassed when he was exonerated, that observation can be balanced by the equally evident embarrassment of members of the "Innocence Project" and the many others who worked so hard to free him. If the authorities can be accused of bias based on their earlier failure, and the upcoming multi-million dollar lawsuit, the defense team can be accused of bias based on the difficulty of accepting that their poster boy could, in reality, have been a vicious, cold hearted killer all along. The film dwells on that first possibility, but has nothing to say about the second. If we peek beneath the film's slick surface, the unwillingness of the defense team and its supporters to accept that second possibility, in the face of overwhelming evidence, becomes painfully clear.

3. We're continually reminded by the defense that there is no physical evidence linking Avery to the crime, no fingerprints, no DNA, no blood, etc. Isn't it "obvious" that the victim's blood and DNA would be all over the crime scene if the prosecution scenario is to be believed? Well, if it were so obvious, then the case could easily have been refuted by the defense, who could easily have convinced the judge to toss out the case, or the jury to find the defendant not guilty. That didn't happen, so we have to ask ourselves: why? Are these people really that stupid? Or are they "in on the plot"?

I'm not sure what the prosecution theory was, and since the film doesn't show us the entire trial (thank God), I can only speculate on what might have happened. Teresa could have been lured into Avery's trailer, then struck over the head and temporarily knocked out. She could then have been carried to Avery's bed and bound so she'd be helpless. Since this would obviously have been a planned assault, he may well have prepared the bed with several layers of sheets, possibly covering the mattress with a plastic sheet. After the sexual assault, she was apparently stabbed and her throat slit (according to Brendan Dassey's account, which I'll deal with presently). That would have produced a lot of blood certainly. But Avery would not have been so foolish as to let blood spatter all over the floor. Since he would have had plenty of time to plan in advance, he could have made sure the floor was covered with a tarp or something similar -- or else just made sure to channel the blood so it remained on the sheets.

After the initial assault, he and Dassey could have lifted her off the bed, wrapped in the sheets, and carried her to her vehicle, where she was supposedly shot in the head. Her body, still wrapped in the bloody sheets, would then have been carried to the fire pit and burned. If the plan had been carried out carefully enough, no blood or DNA from the victim would have been transferred to the bed, the floor or anywhere else in the trailer.

It's been noted that no trace of her DNA was found in the leg or wrist constraints either, but once again we need to remind ourselves that this assault would have been planned in advance -- by someone all too well aware of what DNA evidence meant, since it was DNA that initially got him off. It's not difficult to imagine that he could easily have wrapped her wrists and ankles in some cloth before binding her, and then burning these items along with all the other evidence when the time came.

(to be continued . . . )


  1. It sounds like the guy was a serial criminal, which is why the cops looked towards him as a suspect in the original rape, and why the cops put him in the photo lineup, etc.
    Research has shown that lineups are only trustworthy if they are conducted in a double-blind way, that is administered by a secretary at the station who is unfamiliar with any of the detail or the participants in the events. Not by a biased cop who might lead a woman on to pick out the hated (by the cop) target.
    The rape victim picked the wrong guy (as far as that specific rape goes) At least Amanda Knox only wound up framing herself when she "tried to help the cops" by pointing to the first black man that came into her mind.

    1. I'm not sure what to think about that earlier case. Nothing is said in the documentary about what happened to Gregory Allen after the DNA match was found. Was he tried for that assault, I wonder? Apparently not. I've read that he's due for parole this year and I'm wondering what bearing the new evidence will have on that decision and whether he'd contest it.

      I'm also wondering how the mixup could have occurred in Avery's identification in that first case, since he's 5'1" and Allen is 5'11". Quite a difference! Were both wearing beards at that time, and were they the same length and style?

      Lots of unanswered questions on that first case and I'm wondering why.

    2. Actually, these types of things aren't a mystery to me any more, as to how miscarriages of justice occur. When people are wrongly convicted it is usually due to cult like behaviour in the particular department and bureaucracy in that area. Often in places like Louisiana and Chicago (and Perugia Italy and Boulder Colorado)

      in Law Enforcement in general, sometimes it happens that, when a group of keystone cops
      or the police chief has Tunnel vision and devises a theory as to who the culprit is, boy oh boy are his subordinates going to fall into line to validate his theory

      in these types of situations the “in house” handwriting analysts might declare with exaggerated certainty that the suspect handwriting cannot be excluded as the source for the ransom note,
      and if a lie detector test given, the loyal technician will deceive himself through tunnel vision into declaring that there are signs of deception coming from the chosen suspect.
      I cannot tell you how many true crime documentaries I have seen on TV where for instance the police chief's guilty son passes the light detector test with flying colors only to be proven guilty later through modern DNA testing.
      Things like this happen so often in some jurisdictions that they cannot be due only to the natural failure rate of the lie detector test. It is obvious and naked ambition when the technician will not dare to implicate the chief's son

      and in fact there have been countless cases where a suspect has falsely confessed to a crime that he didn't and couldn't have committed in order to negotiate a life sentence instead of a certain death penalty after realizing that technicians and investigators were contriving false evidence

      during these witch-hunt situations detectives don't initially set out to deliberately falsify evidence in league with each other, but that driving force of ambition and team cohesiveness still leads them all to the same common goal of framing the innocent target.

      One detective will assign the accused to share a cell with a known jailhouse snitch who will then manufacture a false confession by using information provided by the ambitious detective.
      And another cop will manipulate an identification lineup, and yet another cop will creatively interpret a lie detector test or a handwriting sample or a bite mark for instance. (that is why bite mark interpretations are no longer allowed)

      And if the gullible suspect declines his right to silence and provides an alibi, the groveling and ambitious forensics technician might shift the time of death to fit in with the targeted suspects unaccounted for hours that day.

      And then 20 years later when modern DNA testing establishes that the convicted man could not have committed the crime and that a different culprit was guilty, people wonder why would a man falsely confess to crimes that he could not have committed?
      In certain towns like Chicago and in Louisiana even judges so desperately wants to run with their cities elite "in crowd", the decision-makers who are in the know of the cities happenings that they seem to have no qualms about doing whatever it takes to avoid falling in status in the counties good old boy ruling club

      Unfortunately those are not rare occurrences but are rather common and procedural in some jurisdictions in this country

    3. The name for the sort of thing you are referring to is "confirmation bias." And that's a very common problem, not only in forensics but science in general. Once someone makes a decision regarding a suspect in a criminal case OR a scientific theory of any sort, then all new evidence is evaluated in the light of that initial certainty. In my own research on the Ramsey case I have tried very hard to avoid that problem by sticking as much as possible to the facts. But no one is immune, sad to say.

  2. You are spot on here DOC. I disagreed with you regarding Knox but are correct with Avery. He is a psychopathic killer. I was the one who debated with you for awhile regarding Knox. She is a psychopath too.

    1. Anonymous, I don't see how you can compare Knox to Avery. Amanda Knox is more comparable to the Avery rape victim who conformed to what she felt the police wanted to hear during the photo lineup, when she falsley identified Avery.

      The Perugia, Italy police had had their antenna up for a rumored African male who had been breaking into homes via breaking windows. (as the Wisconsin police had been on the lookout for Avery) Like a game of "hot and cold" with the police, Amanda Knox told the cops what she thought they wanted to hear (that her Black boss at the restaurant did it), and as she later claimed, she "thought she was helping them". You often see that on police interrogation tape, cops say "com'on, help us out here", and it is quite common for women to "help get the bad guy off the streets" under the assumption that the cops know who did it, but the woman must rubber stamp their culprit, even if he was wearing a mask and she didn't really see his face.

      And like the Wisconsin frameup, I don't believe an iota of the evidence from the Perugia police. Not the DNA, not the blood...Nothing do I believe from them any more than I would believe Casey Anthony.
      Perugia LE were a pack of "team players", who conveniently return to the crime scene weeks later to "find" additional evidence to check off the boxes for a conviction. Like the victims bra clasp that they missed on their first inspection of the crime scene, only to come back and find it later with Amanda's DNA conveniently on it.

      And I don't believe DNA technicians from that type of cult environment. Like the Dallas DNA scientist who was faking lab results for ten years to conform to what the cops wanted to hear, (like Avery's rape victim at the photo lineup) it does happen, and it is the corrupt technicians who advance in their careers in such environments.

    2. I agree with most of what you have to say, Franklin. There was certainly a huge difference between the interrogation of Amanda Knox and that of Brendan Dassey.

      But my own conclusions regarding both cases were not based on assumptions regarding police tactics or possible corruption, or my belief in one or the other interpretation of what took place. And no, I don't think the Perugia police were corrupt or planted evidence. It looks to me as though they were simply incompetent, transferring DNA inadvertently from one place to another as they attempted to collect it.

      My conclusions on both cases are rooted in the facts. The facts, not her testimony or her believability, or that of the police, tell me she must be innocent. And the facts of the Avery case tell me he must be guilty. Fortunately there are enough facts available in both cases -- as in the Ramsey case -- for a clear conclusion to be drawn.

    3. Also, one more thing, Franklin. If you are inclined to think the DNA technicians might have been paid off or coerced, then you're forced to accept the possibility that they may have been paid off or coerced into identifying the hair DNA in the earlier case. After all, if Avery's lawsuit had gone forward, he'd have wound up with a few million bucks at least, so a bribe is not out of the question -- if you're assuming these technicians could be corrupt.

      I seriously doubt that any of the evidence was tampered with, but if you do have doubts, then remember: evidence tampering can cut in either direction. It's the same money regardless of the source, no?

    4. The problem with your conclusion in the Knox case Doc is that it is almost irrefutable that the break-in was staged. Disregard the DNA evidence or lack of which you yourself have shown in the JBR and Avery cases can be red herrings. Disregard the lack of fingerprint evidence in the room. The break in was staged. That is all you need to know in the Knox case.

  3. The DA claims many key parts of the story, that would prove Avery done it, was intentionally left out.It's a reason why we need the whole, entire truth....not just bits of it.