Questioning the Certainty of ‘Making a Murderer’

The Netflix series Making a Murderer was a huge hit, with over 19 million viewers in the US in its first 35 days. The series presented a clear argument: Steven Avery—a man who had been falsely imprisoned for almost 20 years on a rape charge—was once again let down by the criminal justice system, this time imprisoned for murder as a result of a corrupt police force and district attorney’s office.

Ken Kratz, the special prosecutor who headed the investigation and prosecution was poised as the villain of the series. Kratz was able to tell his side of the story, shining a light on what Making a Murderer got wrong in his recent book published by BenBella, Avery: The Case Against Steven Avery and What Making a Murderer Gets Wrong.

Kratz isn’t the only one who’s noticed the flaws in the story Making a Murderer tells. Kathryn Schulz tackles the subject in her New Yorker article “Dead Certainty: How Making a Murderer goes wrong.” Like Kratz, she notes the bias of the filmmakers in their portrayal of the case: “the documentary consistently leads its viewers to the conclusion that Avery was framed by the Manitowoc County Sheriff’s Department, and it contains striking elisions that bolster that theory. The filmmakers minimize or leave out many aspects of Avery’s less than savory past, including multiple alleged incidents of physical and sexual violence. They also omit important evidence against him, including the fact that Brendan Dassey confessed to helping Avery move Halbach’s SUV into his junk yard, where Avery lifted the hood and removed the battery cable. Investigators subsequently found DNA from Avery’s perspiration on the hood latch—evidence that would be nearly impossible to plant.” She reminds readers of something that Ken Kratz knows all too well: unlike criminal investigations, shows like Making a Murderer are “bound by no rules of procedure, answerable to nothing but ratings, [and] shaped only by the ethics and aptitude of its makers.”

Ultimately, Schulz lands on what is the true hypocrisy at the heart of the show. In trying to disprove what the filmmakers saw as injustices against Mr. Avery, they recreate that very same bias in trying to prove his innocence.

Read the full New Yorker article here.

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