The Netflix documentary Making A Murderer is garnering wide-spread attention. People who don't usually watch true-crime documentaries are transfixed for the 10 episodes, often watching hour and hour. And everyone is talking about it.
As a criminal defense lawyer, I'm so thankful for things like Making a Murder, and the Serial Podcast. These shows have helped to highlight the way things ACTUALLY work in the real world of criminal trials. Nothing glorified like on the TV shows or movies.
In real life, in my experience in Chicago, it's not nearly as riveting. But it's just as important, and it's just as bad. What's frustrating for many viewers is the show ends, the podcast ends, and the defendants are still in jail, questions unanswered. Because this is real life, there's no tie-up at the end where the real killer confesses and the innocent are set free. At least not yet.
So many people spend hours debating on who killed Teresa Halbach or Hae Min Lee. The important thing to remember, in our criminal justice system, as a juror it's not your job to figure out who killed them. The jury's job is to decide if the prosecutors proved beyond a reasonable doubt that Steven Avery killed Teresa. Or instead, if there was there reasonable doubt that he did?
These shows have been great to highlight how often things are done wrong, even today. People are furious at Brendan Dassey's former lawyer who let him be interrogated by the police without being present, whose own investigator used police interrogation techniques to coerce a confession and then turned it over to the police. They should be.
People wonder why the ex-boyfriend erased voicemails. Why the police department that wasn't supposed to be involved was heavily involved and happened to find key evidence. Why the officer called in the license plate number of Teresa's car before it was found. How the prosecutor doesn't call Brendan Dassey as a witness, or why he put on press conferences saying all sorts of brutal things were done by Avery but he never mentions them at trial. These are all excellent questions.
Keep questioning what happened in these cases. We have highlighted time and time again police misconduct, lab misconduct, and prosecutorial misconduct. Every time another case comes to light, and people talk about it, we're one step closer to it not happening again.
Because when a prosecutor lies in order to get a conviction, that is not justice.
When a lab technician lies about a result, that is not justice.
When a police officer lies under oath, that is not justice.
And only when there is justice, is there truth, and only then can there be a finding of proof beyond a reasonable doubt.