Since there was so much buzz surrounding Netflix's Making a Murderer, I decided to watch it. The ten part documentary, covering the trials of Steven Avery and his cousin Brendan Dassey, was filmed over ten years and garnered numerous strong critical reviews after its release a month ago.
This seemed like something right up my alley. I was a fan of the original Court TV because it covered high profile trials from beginning to end, which for me was intriguing, unlike the numerous court tv shows of today which are either ten minute segments of small claims court knock-offs or quick summaries of major cases—both of which leave me entirely unfulfilled.
When the Serial podcast came out, I gave it a shot, but gave up after a couple of episodes because without the visual aid, I had trouble keeping focused on it. HBO's The Jinx was something I loved, however. Long-form, real life crime dramas, if done well, are something special, and Making a Murderer, in terms of crafting, fits this bill.
I don't want to focus this post on the quality of the docu-series's production. It's great. If you love drama, you'll probably enjoy Making a Murderer. It's full of twists and turns. It's clear that there are real lives at stake in these trials and that the effect on the community of Manitowoc was deep.
What I'd like to talk about is the ethics of the filmmakers. So from this point forward, there will be...
It was clear to me early on that the filmmakers were slanting the skew to make Steven Avery look innocent. Regardless of that, after watching the series I thought conclusively that Steven was in fact guilty, but I had questions about Brendan's guilty verdict. Then I decided to look up what key evidence the filmmakers left out of the documentary.
The filmmakers conveniently left out the following facts:
1. A nurse claimed that the hole in the blood vial is common, and that she put it there.
2. Steven Avery and Teresa Halbach knew each other. He had called Auto Trader several times and specifically requested that she come out to take photos. She complained to her boss that she didn't want to go to his property anymore because he was inappropriate.
3. Avery made 3 phone calls to Halbach the day she was murdered, twice from a *67 number to hide his identity.
4. Avery's DNA was found on the underside of the hood of Halbach's car.
5. Jodi Stachowski, Avery's former fiance, now calls Avery a 'monster' who used to beat her and threaten to kill her.
6. Halbach's camera and phone were found on Avery's property.
7. While the documentary briefly mentioned that Avery's criminal past had included animal cruelty, it didn't state that he doused a cat in oil and threw it into a bonfire.
8. The bullet with Halbach's DNA on it, came from Avery's gun.
9. Avery purchased handcuffs and leg irons only 3 weeks before the murder.
10. Brendan admitted to being guilty to his mother on a phone call. He also admitted that Avery had inappropriately touched him and others in the past.
11. Brendan also confessed, in graphic detail, to the whole ordeal, while at the Sheriff's office.
This was all left out of the documentary.
So while Making of a Murderer was fascinating to watch, it was done by two grossly unethical filmmakers that were hell-bent on pushing an agenda and gaining buzz. This is the worst type of filmmaking because it's made on something that's far less than the truth.
Should you still watch Making of a Murderer? Yeah. Because it's well crafted and a shining piece of how biased documentary filmmakers can be when trying to push an agenda instead of trying to tell the truth.
Jon David Rosten, author of
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