Before I continue tonight with Part Two of my analysis of Making a Murderer, I want to complement the producers on making a really fine documentary, top quality, slick in fact, the kind of documentary that wins awards, so well made that a viewer would have a hard time not jumping on the bandwagon to free Steven Avery and Brendan Dassey and to condemn the police investigators and prosecutor and the original defense attorney for Dassey. There are good guys (Avery, Dassey, and Avery's defense team who are fighting for truth and justice) and there are bad guys (anyone thinking or suggesting Avery and Dassey are guilty of the rape and murder of Teresa Halbach). Which side do YOU want to be on?
There is no evenhandedness with the presentation of this documentary. If you think there is, it is because the producers included bits of "tch-tches" to show how the good guys are, of course, human, that we are not trying to whitewash our characters. We all make mistakes, but we don't deserve to be railroaded and have our lives ruined, do we? Even if the "good guys" aren't perfect, we can sympathize with them and get on their team. On the other hand, the producers work overtime to never show the "bad guys" in any sympathetic light, because, they are the devil incarnate, not just mildly flawed human beings like the other side; they are the enemy.
In other words, the producers and a number of the "good guys" in the documentary straight up lie and slander, but we are supposed to not notice this - and if we do note that something is not quite truthful - we let it slip by - because these moments are glossed over quickly and then the film segways into the "bad guys" doing their conspiracy thing so that any conflicting emotions we might have had for a minute quickly get lost in the disgust we feel for what is being done to the innocent men and their families.
I will repeat again; hundreds of hours of filming is edited down to what you see. Each statement allowed in the documentary is handpicked for what emotion it will evoke and what will support the narrative. For example, Steven Avery is always presented as a placid fellow; he speaks with a slow, calm voice throughout the entire documentary. If the producers must include anything about Avery that is a bit unsavory, then Avery is giving his version in a voiceover while a selected portion of evidence flits by on the screen.
Take the cat "incident" that Avery softly explains was just a foolish moment with a bad group of friends (psychopaths always blame others and don't take responsibility for their actions); where he was just playing and tossed the cat over a fire and the cat got lit up. A silly prank that went so awry he got nailed with animal abuse and spent nine months in jail.
Avery flat out lied. The producers let him lie to the viewers. This was in Episode One and right there, viewers should realize they are not going to get the truth from this documentary; that the producers are not going to be ethical and present a factual series about Avery and the circumstances of his legal situation.
It is a fact that Avery poured flammable liquid on the cat and chucked it into the fire to watch it suffer and die. Avery was an adult at the time and coldbloodedly tortured his pet in front of other people. He shows no remorse. Psychopaths often commit impulsive acts for their amusement and don't think about the consequences. If they end up paying for their evil acts, they feel no shame or guilt and blame others for why they did what they did and for the resulting penalty. Many a serial killer has claimed the victim caused him to lose his temper and that is why he is in jail ("The bitch made me do it" excuse). In fact, Avery and his defense attorneys toss down this very card as to why he got nailed for the earlier sexual assault for which he was wrongfully convicted. Avery's cousin told people that Avery was acting like a pervert in front of her (masturbating) and his response was to run her off the road, point a gun at her, and threaten to kill her. But, again, we hear Avery's soft voice downplaying the incident and then the attorneys claiming that it was this no-big-deal moment that led to the hatred the cops had for him and the first arrest, not that his own behaviors put him in the crosshairs. Later in the show, letters are shown that Avery wrote to his kids - first sweet ones and then ones threatening to kill their mother - but, Avery again just had a bit of frustration because of his situation and his soft voice tells us of his struggles; of course, it is his wrongful incarceration that causes him to threaten to kill people (as if all people who are wrongfully incarcerated would do the same).
Full stop. What Avery has really shown us if we don't fall for the producers' manipulation is that he is a violent psychopath. He exhibits all the traits of a psychopath: narcissim (it IS always about him), manipulativeness, poor behavioral controls, pathological lying, lack of remorse, emotionally shallow, lack of empathy, failure to accept responsibility for his own actions, impulsivity, need for excitement, and a grandiose sense of self-worth. Not only does he exhibit psychopathic traits but he also exhibits a penchant for violence, sadism, and sexual perversion. And fire setting. So he is actual right on the mark for being a sexually sadistic psychopath.....and a serial killer. Yet, the producers of this documentary want us to believe he is just a poor, uneducated schmuck who has been dealt a raw deal because people in the community don't like him or his family because they are not upper class citizens. In reality, he had a reputation for being creepy and criminal and that is why some people and the police thought of him as a blight in the community and someone likely to commit a violent crime.
And what kind of crime might a sexually sadistic psychopath commit? Just about anything and, because Avery is quick to lose his temper and prone to violence and impulsiveness and sexual perversion, it is not a stretch to think that if Teresa Halbach caught his eye and he wanted to follow through with the fantasies he spoke of in prison of imprisoning a woman and doing what he wanted to her, he couldn't stand to miss the opportunity. He might even have thought that he was immune to future investigation because he had been victimized by the police system and now was being paraded around as a poster boy for wrongful conviction. He might have thought he was untouchable....a grandiose notion often featured in the psychopathic personality. That the crime didn't goes as planned or that disposing of the body and evidence was a bit more messed up than he thought it would be is not surprising....real life is not like a crime drama on TV and if you have any obvious connection to the victim or crime location and the police show up at your door, it is not as easy as all that to get away with rape and murder. The reason most serial rapists and serial killers go for so long without being caught (or go forever without being caught) is because they attack strangers in isolated locations so it is nearly impossible to figure out who the perpetrator is barring a lucky DNA match someday in the CODIS system.
As to Brendan Dassey, he is what we professionals call "a dumb shit." A "dumb shit" does not refer to IQ...it simply means that he is a guy - usually not an evil guy - but one who does stupid crimes because he makes foolish choices or participates in serious crimes because he is egged on by a stronger lawbreaker or a gang. He is the weak partner in a serial killer duo, the one who does what the mastermind says; he is a follower and needs the attention of the leader. Dumb shits often give confessions with little prodding. When they are separated from their leader and on their own, they are not exactly clever and tough. Avery can hold out till death proclaiming his innocence, but a dumb shit like Dassey will simply open his mouth with the smallest encouragement. While the interrogators of Dassey didn't do the best job I have ever seen and occasionally gave information and led Dassey, they did not coerce his confession or terrify him into giving his statements. Dassey told of his experience over and over - even to his mother - and his description - while likely containing some errors - was pretty much the truth. Avery drew Dassey into a criminal act. I doubt Dassey would have committed such an act on his own but, being a follower, he followed. Dassey truly is not a very bright fellow - not mentally retarded - but certainly not very smart. I feel a bit sorry for him....I think he deserves to go to prison but maybe not for life; the first attorney the documentary villainized knew he was guilty and that he should go for a plea bargain because the evidence overwhelmingly supported the majority of his confession. Unfortunately, his mother intervened along with Avery's defense team and got him a new lawyer who then got him a life sentence.
Steven Avery, while also portrayed as slow upstairs, is no dummy. He may not be an intellectual or highly educated but he has some smarts; he knows when to shut his mouth. Too bad for him his defense team couldn't overcome the evidence with their story of the police trying to frame him. But, now he has a documentary team and they just might do a better job than his attorneys.
Criminal Profiler Pat Brown
January 20, 2016