Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Making a Killing off a Murderer: An Analysis of the Crime and Documentary - Part Five

Disclaimer: My commentary on defense attorneys and prosecutors is to make a point about our system, not to condemn all attorneys. Defense attorneys, prosecutors, police, documentary makers....all professionals....represent a spectrum from what is the best about their fields and what is the worst..and most fall in the middle.

On this final part of my post on Making a Murderer, I want to talk about attorneys. We have an adversarial system in the United States which essentially means two lawyers are pitted against each other in court and neither one's objective is discovery or presenting the truth. Nor are they necessarily seeking justice. Their goal is to win and, unfortunately, our system allows them to do just about anything to win including lying, deceiving, manipulating, ignoring, terrifying, and paying others to do the same (these others are called "experts"). On the receiving end of this dog-and-pony show are twelve untrained jurors who are supposed to figure out which highly experienced lawyer and which highly experienced expert is telling the truth. They are supposed to do a solid crime scene analysis, something many police detectives have trouble doing and they are supposed to profile the defendent and witnesses in spite of having zero education in psychology or criminal profiling and they are supposed to understand and analyze forensic evidence in spite of the fact they have never studied anything remotely connected to DNA, blood spatter patterns, forensic pathology, etc.

And you are worried about the police planting evidence? The real planting of evidence happens in the courtroom where the attorneys plant all sorts of crazy ideas, stories, incorrect "facts" and distorted information in the heads of the befuddled jury and then collect a huge sum of money regardless of the outcome of the trial. In fact, if the defense attorney loses his case, he can make more money on appeal. What a great profession!

Now, let me tell you how each side works. Generally speaking, a prosecutor wants a pretty solid case before he goes to court. He doesn't want his win record ruined. Many times cops are frustrated because they have the right guy but the prosecutor won't prosecute because he wants and open-and-shut case. So the guy goes free; it is very difficult for police officers to not become discouraged and cynical. But, if there is a good amount of evidence the prosecutor works hard to put together the timeline and facts and motive, gets good local experts to testify, and hopes the jury understands the evidence and finds the defendant guilty.

Once in a while when a case is a pain in the state's backside, a lowlife character will be prosecuted with limited evidence. The jury doesn't have much interest in or sympathy for the guy and usually he is stuck with a public defender. It is amazing how often the prosecutor can win a case like that. This is the rare time the prosecutor might actually wonder how guilty the defendent is but go ahead and prosecute because the political power that be want him to and he wants to keep his job.

On the other hand, a defense attorney almost always has a guilty client and knows it. The evidence is usually pretty solid so he pushes the guy for a plea bargain. If his client wants to go to trial, he goes to court and usually loses but then he goes home and watches football; the guy was likely guilty anyway, so he isn't losing sleep over the conviction. He still gets a paycheck.

Sometimes, a defense attorney really does believe his client is innocent. If it bothers him enough, he might really put a great effort forth to try to save him from prison. If he fails, he might actually find himself drinking a few doubles in the bar.

But, let's say the attorney has a guilty-as-hell murdering client but he is making a good payday off of the trial. Well, then, he will do everything he can to investigate (and charge for every dime of his time spent), delay and delay (and charge) and hire experts and do lots of depositions (and charge) and present a very detailed case in court (and charge). His client can tell him he is guilty and he will go right ahead and try to get him off. I have never understood how anyone can morally do this. Some people believe that a guilty person is entitled to the best defense but in this system it can mean anything the defense attorney can cook up to bamboozle the jury into acquitting (Casey Anthony, O.J. Simpson).

Here are all the things the defense is willing to do when they realize they can't win a big case based on the evidence (since it proves their client is guilty).

1) Go on TV and try to pollute the jury pool (jurors lie when they say they know nothing about big cases or they have not been influenced).

2) Hire experts to say whatever they want. Have you ever wondered how it is possible to have the prosecution expert and the defense expert (both Drs) say the exact opposite? In a big trial, usually the jury will believe the defense expert over the prosecution expert because the prosecution uses a local fellow and the defense expert is a famous guy you see on TV that they paid $50,000 to show up. Who would you believe? Dr. Poindexter Rafferty or Dr. Michael Baden?

3) Make up a good story. I have been hired by defense attorneys to profile their cases and when I said their client was guilty as hell, they wanted to pick my brain for alternate scenarios. I always refuse and walk out. But, in court, some crazy alternative suspects and scenarios are created so that the jury starts thinking, well, maybe that could have happened. Then, they push aside all the evidence because they think there is some minute possibility which could explain away everything and the defendant just might not be guilty and they don't want to err and have the guy's blood on their hands.

4) Blame the police. It is an old trick. When the evidence is likely to convict your client and you can't come up with a good story that will sway the jury into letting him off, blame the police. Start picking apart the investigation, point out any investigative error made or any character defect in the officers involved in the case, make the jury think that the police force is corrupt, that they planted evidence, coerced confessions, somehow are railroading the defendent. Sometimes it works and it only needs to work on one juror and the hung jury will assure the attorneys another round of large checks.

Oh, and don't forget, a jury is not selected by drawing twelve numbers; the defense does their best to make sure no one with too much analytical ability is on the jury (I will never be allowed on a jury). The defense does not always succeed, but they do their damnedest to stack the deck.

5) The final trick is called time. If enough time passes between arrest and the trial, or between the first trial and the appeal, or between the conviction and some claim the client is innocent by a documentary company, witnesses have died, the victim is all but forgotten by the community, emotions have dissipated, and the convicted has been "rehabilitated" - he hasn't committed a crime in years (because he has been incarcerated) and he has become a) Christian b) a college graduate c) a jailhouse lawyer d) married and a daddy. Now, he seems like a decent enough guy, maybe one who was innocent and suffered years in prison for a crime he didn't commit. Now, there are "questions" as to his guilt and then a killer gets his own fan club, freeinsertname.com website, and, if lucky, Hollywood interest.

Making a Murderer is a defense driven, biased film which pretends to care about showing the ills of the system. I would like to put the producers on a polygraph and ask them these questions:

1) Do you think Avery is guilty?
2) Did you misrepresent Avery's character in the film?
3) Did you misrepresent the evidence in the film?
4) Did you purposefully present a view of the case purely from the standpoint of the defense?
5) Did you make this documentary to educate or to make a lot of money?

When they finish answering these questions, I think they might need a good lawyer for the civil case against them for slander and defamation. Maybe they will hire the attorneys who represented Steven Avery but, then again, these guys lost the case...maybe they should look for other representation.

Criminal Profiler Pat Brown

January 26, 2016

Friday, January 22, 2016

Making a Killing of a Murderer: An Analysis of the Crime and Documentary - Part Four

Now, I want to talk about one of the least understand subjects connected with criminal investigation: how police actually conduct investigations and how they go amok. If you watch CSI and all those crime shows, you will see perfect investigations: the crime scene is properly handled, every piece of weird evidence is found and analyzed without error in the lab, the police eventually have great clues as to who the suspect is, then he is brought in an interrogated by the best interrogator ever, and, finally, all the evidence is strong and proves the suspect did do it and so he is arrested and prosecuted and found guilty by a jury.

This is Hollywood and this how people expect every police investigation to go down. Reality, however, is quite different. First of all, most cases aren't a big mystery. Police know who did it right away and then they just have to be sure that they do a reasonable job preserving evidence and the rights of the accused. Then, they arrest the guy and he makes a plea deal (because he knows he is going down) or the case goes to court and the everyone goes through the motions and the guy is convicted of whatever he did.

Then, once in a while you have a more difficult case and here is where things can become complicated and go wrong.

The Crime Scene

Let's start with the crime scene: first you have to hope you find the crime scene before days, months, or years pass. Suppose a girl goes missing while hitchhiking in Nebraska. No one even knows she has gone missing for a month. Then, no one knows where she went missing. Ten years later her body is found in a ditch in a cow pasture on the back acreage of a ranch in North Dakota. Unless the killer dropped his license at the scene, you may have nothing to go on. Meanwhile, the killer has thrown all his clothing away, not because he was so bright, but because they got old and dirty (so those fibers you found on her body won't match anything), and he has moved three times from rental places with furniture, so no fibers from his house will match the scene. Unless he took photos of the girl and stashed them in a locker that he forgot to pay the rent on and it is forced open and the photos discovered, police will probably never solve the case.

How about a woman who is stabbed to death in her home and then the house is set on fire? The firefighters arrive and blast the place with water. The knife that was lying next to her body in the living room is now on the other side of the kitchen. God knows what has happened to any other evidence left at the scene; it might have been burnt, drowned or displaced.

Sometimes the family mucks up the evidence. Mom comes home and finds her son hanging naked from the ceiling with porn magazines around him. She cuts him down, clothes him, and hides the pornography. Now the police have no idea that this was an autoerotic death and for the next twenty years, although the police have labeled it a suicide (because the rope marks on his neck match suicide and not homicide), Dad insists his son was murdered and the police are covering up for the killer.

Sometimes a scene has two dozen people tromping through it before the police even get there (like the family, friends, firefighters, EMTs) and sometimes police fail to keep certain people out (like the mayor).

Now, as to evidence. First you have to hope it wasn't destroyed at a crime scene. Then you have to hope it wasn't impossible to find at a crime scene. So a girl's body is discovered in a local park. She has no semen inside her, so the police believe the guy used a condom. They discover 84 used condoms in the park. And they don't even know if the killer took his condom with him. Good luck with that mess. Or a body is found in the trash dump. Try figuring out if anything near the body has anything to do with the crime.

Sometimes evidence is added...staged...and not by the police. This can really throw a case off. Or, sometimes there just doesn't seem to be much evidence...believe it or not sometimes fingerprints just don't take or the killer just doesn't leave much due to his handling of the scene. Sometimes evidence is collected and mismanaged - packaged incorrectly, damaged, lost. Most of the time this is accidental and frustrating. I have worked cases were evidence had gone missing. One time it was a flood where the evidence was kept. Another time a crucial piece of evidence - a toothpick that was found in the victim's hair and likely had the killer's DNA on it - went missing. And then there was the missing trunk of a car with bullet holes in it....kind of bigger than a breadbox, so how was it misplaced? I don't suspect police corruption with these three cases (okay, two out of three), so I have to believe it was carelessness and incompetence.

Another problem with evidence is trying to figure out what it really means, how important it is, and if it is even connected to the crime. Even DNA inside a victim may not be the killer's; it could be some random guy she picked up and he is damned well not going to admit he was with her and make himself a murder suspect. Or suppose upon entering her apartment, a woman finds a man's cap on the floor in the hallway. She picks it up and plans to take it down to the lost-and-found later. She drops it on the table. Then she hears a knock at the door, opens it, and someone enters and kills her. The police take the cap into evidence because no one knows whose it is. Later, someone says a guy two doors down the hall wears that kind of cap and the police go question him. He says he has never been to the woman's apartment and has no idea how his cap would get there. DNA proves it is his cap. Poor guy is in a lot of trouble.

Sometimes the evidence is real evidence but what it means in the crime is the question. The victim is found with a sock stuffed in her mouth. Was the perp trying to suffocate her? Torture her? Or did she start screaming and he was trying to shut her up? The victim is found lying next to her vehicle with the driver's side door open. Was she coming or going when she was attacked? The shell casings from some dozen bullets are both silver and brass. Did the killer mix up his ammunition or did he change clips?

Which brings me to a very important issue: training.


Most people assume a detective receives specialized training in crime analysis before he gets the job. In reality, this training is quite rare. Most of the time, a street cop is simply promoted to detective. And he starts working. He has his training from the police academy but most of that has nothing to do with crime analysis or profiling. He, of course, has experience from years on the job dealing with crime and criminals. He may be very logical or he may have little logic skills at all, but be a great guy to go drink with. Anyway, he now is a detective and he starts working. He learns a lot on the job and, hopefully, gets sent to seminars and conferences now and again, but that all depends on how much money the department has to spare or if he wants to fork it out himself. Maybe he reads books about crime analysis; maybe he watches Criminal Minds. What you usually have when a murder goes down is a crap shoot as to who ends up as detective on the case. As I said before, since most homicides aren't rocket science, these can be closed reasonably well even without much training. However, when those more difficult cases come up, it would be nice if the detective was skilled in crime analysis.

So what sometimes happens is that the poorly trained detective goes with his gut. Guesses what happened. Tries to match up the evidence. And goes in a completely wrong direction. The case either never gets solved or, maybe a new detective gets the case years later, figures it out, but now it is too late to get enough evidence to convict. I have been brought in on numerous cases way too late and, although I can solve the case, it will never make it to court (which is why I refuse to do cold case work anymore but prefer training detectives so that they can keep the case from going cold).

When things go amok:

When the wrong guy gets nailed for the crime, it usually results from poor analysis or covering one's ass. Rarely is it outright railroading for the purposes of a huge coverup like the police officer himself committed the crime or the killer is a relative of the police chief or they were out to get a specific person. The majority of the time it is poor analysis coupled with a possible suspect who seems to fit the bill and a few suspicious circumstantial pieces of evidence that work with him or what seems like a solid piece or two of physical evidence or eyewitness identifications. Almost always the wrong guy is a felon or a major loser or already incarcerated; all of these are the types juries find easy to convict with a good story. Most of the time the guy who gets wrongly incarcerated is someone  known to law enforcement early on and just fits right in at the beginning or the case has gone on a long time and they are getting a lot of pressure to close it so they become more and more convinced that a particular suspect could have done it. Kind of like a self-fulfilling prophecy. Sometimes, more rarely, in order to salvage the department's reputation or to keep from committing political suicide, a case is close down wrongly. Most of the time no one has a clue; I have seen this with a few cases I have worked and I know the wrong guy was convicted; there is no one to really complain to (if it isn't a popular case, politicians don't care and will tell you to go talk to the police! Yeah, thanks). Unless there is a death penalty issue or a racial issue, it is often impossible to get the media interested or any other particular group. We do need some kind of oversight method but, right now, we don't have one in this country. Of course, to be fair, one reason it is hard to get anyone to listen is because of the number of nutters (and some well-meaning grieving family members) who call up to claim that the police department mishandled the case, is covering up, is corrupt, etc. I have reviewed cases where I end up agreeing with the police department and, even though I lay out a thorough analysis for the family, they go on to claim that I got paid off by the police department and am corrupt as well. The family will then go to another expert and on and on for years because they cannot accept the truth.

The Investigation of Steven Avery

I would say at the time of the first  case police department had Steven Avery on their radar because it wasn't an overpopulated area and they knew him well, knew he was a violent psychopath and were just waiting for him to commit another crime, not because they wanted him to, but because they figured one day they would be knocking on his door again. So a woman gets raped and her description matches Avery (he DOES look very much like the actual perpetrator). As far as I know, the police department didn't know about the other guy for years, so it isn't like they had two guys who could have done it and they chose Avery. What they had was Avery and a woman who identified him as the man who raped her. And she swore she had ample time to memorize his face. Well, with no DNA in those days to match and a victim who identified Avery, a violent psychopath, the police thought it was him. So did a jury.

Now, Avery is out and Teresa Halbach goes missing. As I detailed in the last blog, all the evidence led to Avery's door, so the detectives would be derelict in their duties if they didn't go investigate him. My guess is they really would rather have never heard of Avery again because the last thing they probably wanted was to have to arrest him again considering how well that went last time and how nasty the public just might get with suspecting them to be screwing up again (and this documentary proves it could indeed have gone badly).

Lucky for the cops, there was a large amount of evidence and the confession of Brendan Dassey. Enough for a conviction which they got.

Remember what I just said about varying levels of police competency; you can't judge the guilt of a suspect on the perfection of an investigation; you must judge on the totality of the evidence. When you find a whole lot of evidence proving guilt, it shouldn't be erased because of one confusing piece of evidence or one cop's screw-up. The real question is - with the known evidence - does it amount to proving guilt?

Brendan Dassey's interrogation could have been better but it could have been far worse. I find a few things he said were more likely to have been said because the interrogator fed him the information. This is poor interviewing. However, the majority of the interviews were not scripted by the police, were quite freely given, especially the confession he made to his own mother. Even Dassey's lawyer (the one his mother got rid of) believed Dassey was confessing he was involved in the crime, confessed convincingly enough and without undue pressure..that regardless of his level of intelligence...the jury was going to believe he committed a crime alongside his uncle. This is why Dassey's lawyer wanted him to plead out. He was trying to cut the length of his sentence down.

Along with a good confession, all the evidence - ALL OF IT - the victim's last place seen, the car, the body, the phone, the key, the blood, the DNA - ALL OF IT - could be connected to Steven Avery. That is pretty unusual for any case of railroading. Most railroads have minimal evidence; usually just a confession or questionable DNA or a bad witness or some really sketchy circumstantial evidence. This case had an abundance of every kind of evidence linking to Avery.

Now, let's talk about police planting stuff. Let's skip planting the body and the car...too ridiculous to consider. So we have blood in the car and the key. EVEN if the cops planted this, the other evidence is still good enough for conviction. But, let's look at it. The blood vial was NOT used for planting blood evidence. The defense attorney and the documentary makers should be sued for saying this. The blood is Steven Avery's and did not come from that tube. Avery had a cut on his finger and that is where the blood came from. Likely that blood also got onto the key which he most likely wiped off, eliminating Halbach's DNA from the key. Then he got his own DNA on it while hiding it in that piece of furniture , keeping it just in case he needed to move the car. That the key wasn't found right away is not surprising if it was hidden in the back of the furniture in a crack or wherever and only popped out and fell to the floor when the piece of furniture was moved more strongly. Again, sometimes evidence is not immediately found because it is well enough hidden or it is just missed.

I don't believe the police in this case tampered with the evidence. The worst I think they might have done is to feed Dassey some information. I believe the right men are in prison (although Dassey should have gotten a lesser sentence) and all this craziness about this case being about police corruption is a fantasy of the documentary producers and the defense attorneys. I think they all know Avery is guilty but why let a good opportunity slip by just because you know the truth.

Part Three

Part Two

Part One

Criminal Profiler Pat Brown

January 21, 2016

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Making a Killing off a Murderer: An Analysis of the Crime and Documentary - Part Three

While not all criminals are psychopaths and not all psychopaths are criminals, certainly a good portion of criminals have personality disorders and a good portion of psychopaths commit crimes of one sort or another. But, first I want to talk about what crime is.

A crime is something that society has deemed illegal, as something you should not do because it is harmful to others or the community. Drug use is often included as a crime because it is believed to not only harm the individual, but to bring blight and crime to the neighborhood, but let's put drug use aside and talk about other crimes; drug dealing, burglary, robbery, fraud, arson, rape, and murder. These are crimes that when an individual commits such acts he has done so in a premeditated fashion, knew he was going to break the law, knew he was going to cause harm to another person, and, yet, went ahead and committed the act anyway. There are only two reasons for stepping over that line: desperation (benefit triumphs harm) and selfish desire for power and control (what I want is more important than your rights; my ego needs to fed). Desperation might be something like stealing food to feed your child or committing a theft to pay for medicine for your very ill wife. You know it is wrong but you believe committing the crime is the only way to save a life and the harm it does is minimal in comparison. A person who commits this kind of crime may not be a bad guy or have a personality disorder; he just can't think of any other way to deal with a bad situation. Sometimes a drug dealer could fit in this category if he cannot find a way to earn legitimate money and he lives in a houseful of starving siblings. If he shows up on the corner with a lot of bling and is driving a BMW, probably he is not dealing out of desperation.

And most crime is not committed out of desperation. It is committed out of selfishness. I am more important than you and I will get mine. Even shoplifting is an act of selfishness; thrill seeking or a ha-ha to big business or desiring instant gratification rather than working to earn money to then purchase what you want. When shoplifting isn't about stealing food for your family, it is about selfishness. The reason criminals are so often repeat offenders is because they LIKE committing crime. Since the majority aren't committing crimes out of desperation, they are doing it because it make them feel good, it makes them happy. And since they don't care too much that they are harming others, there is no reason for them to stop unless they feel the punishment isn't worth it. If they don't get caught or don't mind the time in jail, they will repeat offend until the punishment is severe enough to keep them off the streets forever or until they get tired of incarceration or until they become physically unable to commit crime.

So by the time you get to repeat offenders - especially violent repeat offenders - you are usually looking at psychopathy or another serious personality disorder. Serial rapists and serial killers are always psychopaths...you just can't commit that kind of heinous premeditated crime without being a psychopath.

Steven Avery, as I pointed out in the previous post, has all the traits of a psychopath. He has all the traits of a serial killer. His claims about desiring a quiet life with a good woman is a lie; he would find that boring; he needs to have a much higher level of power and control and excitement. The police were well aware of his criminal capabilities which is why he was on their radar. When the sexual assault was committed on the beach and the woman gave a description that matched Avery, it is no surprise they thought it was him.

The mistake the police made was immediately thinking it must be that guy: there is often not a shortage of violent sexual offenders in the radius of any town or city. Attacking a female jogger is a very common crime for a rapist or serial killer. In fact, the majority of serial sexual crimes involving strangers are just this sort; few actually involve kidnapping and imprisonment and torture. Hollywood tends to make people think all serial killers are deranged geniuses who plot intricate crimes but this is simply not true. Most serial killers just see an opportunity (read: woman walking or jogging alone) and jump out and brutalize her. Consequently, there isn't much that looks different from one of these crimes to the next. There is no "signature," some calling card that would point to a specific guy. Pretty much any violent sexual offender could have done the crime, so you need physical, circumstantial, or witness evidence to link him to the crime. Unfortunately, the police just went with a witness ID from the victim and used this to put Avery away. It was unfortunate for Avery that he looked enough like the guy who really did the crime to be misidentified. Since there was DNA left in the crime, if it happened today, Avery would not have been charged, but at that time, DNA was not so advanced. However, even today, the right guy might not have been charged either because the police might have no clue who he is; they might just have to put his DNA into the CODIS system and hope he was previously a felon and get a lucky hit.

Now, to the Halbach crime. I am not going to detail all of what makes Avery guilty. If you want to examine each issue in depth, here is a fabulous analysis of each and every segment of "Making a Murderer" by a non-profiler - broadcaster Dan O' Donnell.


What I want to do here is just point out the basic profiling and crime analysis issues relating to the Halbach crime.

1) Where victim's body is found

The body was found on Avery's property. This is why the police went to Avery and talked to him. He wasn't targeted. You have the corpse of a murdered individual on your property; you are going to become a person of interest.

2) Where the victims' vehicle is found.

That was on Avery's property as well. Again, police are not targeting Avery. They are doing their job which is to investigate where the vehicle was found and who could have put the vehicle at that location. Since it was hidden on Avery's property, he is going to become a person of interest.

3) The last place the victim was seen

That was on Avery's property. Anyone who lives on the Avery property is going to become a person of interest; this includes Steven Avery

4) The last person to have contact with the victim

That would be Steven Avery. The police are obviously going to investigate the last person who was in contact with the victim or was with the victim.

5) Where physical evidence of the crime exists

That would be in the Avery fire pit, in the Avery burn barrel, in Steven Avery's house, and in the victim's car on Avery's property. All the physical evidence implicates Steven Avery (his DNA in the car), the victim's body parts, DNA, and personal items in the firepit and barrel, and the key and his DNA in his house.

6) Witnesses

The only people that claim to have seen Teresa Halbach right before or after her disappearance are Bobby and Brendan Dassey. Bobby Dassey states he say Halbach photographing a car and then heading toward Steven Avery's house. Brendan Dassey states he saw Halbach tied up in Steven Avery's house, saw Steven Avery kill her and saw Steven Avery burn her. There are no witnesses saying they saw Teresa Halbach anywhere else or with anyone else.

So, it comes down to this. Overwhelming evidence that Steven Avery is guilty of the murder of Teresa Halbach. Unless he was framed.

Framing Steven Avery would require:

Someone knowing or getting lucky that Halbach was coming out to Avery property that day.
Someone getting lucky that there are two witnesses to say she was with or near Steven Avery that day
Someone getting lucky that a witness can describe the crime in detail so that most of it matches the evidence
Someone has to kill Halbach for some reason and burn her body on the property right under the nose of Steven Avery (or bring her burned body parts (this did not happen) to the property and mix them in with the stuff Steven Avery had already burned.
Someone had to hide the victim's car on the Avery property
Someone had to hide the victim's car key in Steven Avery's house
Someone had to plant Steven Avery's DNA in the victim's car and on the key

So either law enforcement found out Halbach was going out to Steven Avery's house and just as she was leaving, they kidnapped her, killed her, burned her up, and spread all the evidence and DNA around Avery's property and house OR someone else saw the opportunity to kill Halbach, killed her, burned her up somewhere and spread her cremains and personal items around the Avery property and then law enforcement saw a great opportunity and jumped on board by planting Avery's DNA and the key.

Or maybe Steven Avery is just guilty as hell and all the evidence proves it.

Part Two 

Part One

Criminal Profiler Pat Brown

January 21, 2016

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Making a Killing off a Murderer: An Analysis of the Crime and Documentary - Part Two

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.

Part Three

Part One

Criminal Profiler Pat Brown

January 20, 2016

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Making a Killing off a Murderer: An Analysis of the Crime and Documentary - Part One

I was one of the few people outside of the state of Wisconsin to be familiar with the Steven Avery case prior to the making of the hit Netflix documentary, Making a Murderer. I reviewed his case years ago and was satisfied that a serial killer was where he should be....off the streets and out of our communities. When I heard that a documentary series had been made that pretty much proclaimed Avery was not guilty of the murder of Teresa Halbach in 2005, I was stunned because I always thought there was a pretty good amount of convincing physical and circumstantial evidence to support his conviction. I wondered why so many people who had seen Making a Murderer were convinced Avery was innocent, so sure that he was framed and railroaded by law enforcement and the prosecutor's office, and willing to accept this television production's rendering of the events and evidence.   I have come to the conclusion that the public has a very poor understanding of five things and this is why Steven Avery now has a fan club and advocates desperately wanting to free him from prison.

The public tends to not fully understand:

1) How defense attorneys represent a very guilty client and how prosecutors prosecute
2) How law enforcement conducts investigations and how they go amok
3) How criminals commit crimes and how profilers and detectives analyze crimes
4) What makes a psychopath and how does he think and behave
5) How the television and entertainment industry works.

In Part One of this blog, I will discuss the television and entertainment industry. In Part Two, I will discuss criminals, psychopaths, and analyzing crimes and what this all means as to Steven Avery and Brendon Dassey's involvement in murder. In Part Three, I will discuss how police investigation works, how the prosecution works, and analyze how I see the agencies handling of the Avery cases. Finally, in Part Four, I will discuss how defense attorneys handle criminal cases and what happened in the defense of Avery and Dassey.

About Television:

Television works a lot like the college system these days. In many colleges today, rather than serious lectures, in-depth research requirements, and long hours of memorization and writing of long term papers, students are spoon fed material, allowed to plagiarize large portion of texts (by cutting and pasting), do tests with their books open, and put in as few hours as possible in schooling so as to have a full social life. Above all, they must be entertained when in the classroom or the professor can seek other employment. Students get to evaluate their professors and those who don't amuse them enough or give them high grades regardless of effort and achievement get bad ratings which leads to dismissal. Education takes a back seat to catering to the comfort and whims of entitled students.

Television also seeks to entertain rather than educate. The production company edits and constructs the material to keep the viewer mindlessly engaged, does all the work for them so that they don't have to put in the effort to discover the truth for themselves; in fact, television will present "the truth" they want the viewer come away with by the end of the program. The show will be built with everything in the right place to produce the right result: voiceovers, news pieces, experts, people who act in such a way that the audience will sympathize with them, people who act in such a way that the audience will despise them, bits of information without the original context to understand exactly what the facts are, information left out that might cause viewers to question the agenda or conclusion of the show, music and visual effects intended to manipulate feelings to go along with certain information, and all of these sound bites of the show will be sewn carefully together to create the intended narrative.

So why do colleges and television peddle this kind of product  to students and audiences? Because students and viewers are consumers and these businesses analyze what the buyer wants and if they want the buyers to keep buying, they have to sell them a product that makes them happy. In today's society, what sells well is not necessarily a moral or truthful product. What sells now is instant gratification and exciting entertainment, not hours of thoughtful discussion and an in-depth presentation of facts all of which requires further effort to become educated enough to understand the totality of the subject matter.

When I profiled the last queen of Egypt in the Discovery documentary, The Mysterious Death of Cleopatra, I was filmed in action twelve hours a day for four weeks (in Egypt, Italy, and England). I spoke in-depth on camera with a number of Egyptologists and historians and I gave an in-depth analysis of many issues concerning Cleopatra's life and death. The whole documentary running time was less than 45 minutes and a good portion of that was voiceovers, acting sequences, and me walking into a temple, walking down a street, riding in a taxi, oohing and aahing over the architecture. The point of the program was to convince people that a snake did not kill Cleopatra, not because evidence supports this (which it does),  but because it is a controversial and myth busting premise which would get people talking and make the show a high earner. And it worked. Although I am happy to have made some important points in the film and gotten rid of that silly death-by-cobra myth, much of the success of the narrative came from the crafting of the show rather than the evidence I presented. I went on to write a book, The Murder of Cleopatra in which I detail all the evidence that supports my analysis of what happened to the Pharaoh during her reign, in her relationships, and how and why she was killed. I have offered quite a few new theories and evidence to support them. I have had a dozen reviews from people who attack me for murdering a myth and just making up stuff without doing any research; they don't actually bother to read all the evidence I have spent years gathering to support my theories....that would take work and critical thinking...and Cleopatra committing suicide with a snake is cooler. Furthermore, I don't have a scripted show with all the bells and whistles and publicity to make them instant believers of my theories.

So, we come to Making a Murderer. Very few shows that are pitched to networks actually see the light of day. I know. I have had over a dozen shows pitched with me as profiler and, although the production company is, oh, so excited about this great show that they are sure will sell..usually it  doesn't come to fruition. Right now I am up for criminal profiler in the new CBS show Hunted, a show that actually HAS made it because it is a reality show with an edgy twist; teams of citizens go on the run and see how long they can evade capture by a highly skilled tracking team. For the ten part series Making a Murderer to get to your television screen it has to be something unique and captivating; simply telling the story of a man who was wrongly incarcerated, released, and then arrested for a similar heinous crime...well, interesting but that would probably only make a one hour crime show. BUT, if this wronged man is wronged again, framed by crooked police and politicians....if he is really innocent, yeah, THAT is worthy a series. Worthy of critical acclaim. Worthy of a lot of viewers. Worthy of a lot of money.

And worthy of your skepticism.

Part Two

Criminal Profiler Pat Brown
January 19, 2016