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


Martin Roberts said...

Hello Pat

I am in no position to comment on either the case or the documentary concerning it but, coincidentally, I have been invited by someone else to read another's link which does:


You may already be aware of this and/or others like it. I simply mention it, without bias, as being pertinent, even if not ultimately relevant.

Kind regards

Martin Roberts

Pat Brown said...

Martin Roberts,

This article is exactly the kind of thing that makes me ill. Yes, the poor of ANY country suffer more than the rich...no shit, Sherlock. But, part of the problem of the suffering of people in the criminal justice system is that they have COMMITED crimes. For example, this trials against the six police officers in Baltimore, Maryland who had Freddie Gray die in their custody. From what I can discern, there was no conspiracy against Gray; they arrested him, he caused problems, they shackled him, they put him in the van as usual, and along the way he met with an accident (yes, we can change belting policies). Now, Freddie Gray is being called a victim of the law enforcement system. But, Gray was a menace to his society and the police. He committed crime after crime, dealt drugs to children, always resisted arrest thereby endangering police officers lives. There are many criminals from poor communities, many criminals who happen to be minorities, who struggle with the criminal justice system because they commit crimes and can't afford better lawyers. BUT, the real problem is poverty and the breakup of the family and collapse of the community. Go anywhere in the world and you will see this regardless of race or religion or ethnicity. Take for example Columbia back in the days of Pablo Escobar. He hired dozens of assassins from poor communities to kill off his enemies and the police. They came cheap and they lined up for the job. The incredible poverty in that country unleashed massive lawlessness and the only way to do something about that is to improve the lives of the poor in general.

We DO have problems in a law enforcement and prosecutorial system. I have personally fought against some of the corruption and incompetence and malfeasance in the system. I have stood up publicly to shine a light where I have seen things that are simply wrong. However, much of the outrage now against the system is a political philosophy dressed up as justice seeking. They are painting condemnation with a broad brush - claiming injustice where there is none - ignoring injustice where it really is - claiming racism in cases where racism is not the issue - claiming police brutality where there wasn't police brutality - etc, etc. It is a political movement, not an effort to rationally deal with flaws in the system which is why I refuse to jump on board and run around the streets with signs.

BTW, before I get the white entitlement card thrown at me and the racist card thrown at me, I am the mother of two biracial children and one black son who, I am proud to say, haven't had problems with the criminal justice system or problems with the police, probably because they have been fortunate enough to not live in severely impoverished areas, have had a good education, and grew up in an intact family (though we were never wealthy, just average, lower middle class). Our problems with with race and criminality in this country have to do with living circumstance, opportunities in life, education, hope, environment, family, and all things that give young people a reason to avoid criminal behavior; improving the lives and future of young people would make a huge difference in keeping African-Americans out of the justice system.

Martin Roberts said...

Hello Pat

I would not disagree. Even here in the UK, the racist card gets played up front and criminality put back in the deck for another day. OJ Simpson rings a bell also.

As to providing opportunities for the young, like healthcare and other aspects of social improvement, such initiatives cost money. (Doesn't everything?). Perhaps if our respective governments spent less on the wholesale slaughter of innocents overseas there might be a little more available for children at home.

As an old friend of mine once said - 'Britain is a good parent to everyone's children, save its own.' Only now even the first aspect of that statement is open to question.

Kind regards

Martin R.

Pat Brown said...

There are quite a few people who believe Brendan Dassey is being released from prison because he is innocent of being involved in the Teresa Halbach crime; this is blatantly untrue. Dassey is being released (and he can be retried) due to the following court decision; that the combination of police assurances that Dassey had nothing to worry about and Dassey's limited intellect invalidated his confession as voluntarily made (not that the confession was untrue, just that he made it because he thought there were no consequences to doing so). While I do not think the police interrogation was one of the finest I have ever seen, I do believe Brendan Dassey was involved in some aspect of the crime with his uncle. Dassey's release is based on the court determining that the interview was not conducted properly, not that Dassey is innocent of any wrongdoing.
IV. Conclusion
Although Kachinsky’s misconduct was indefensible, the United States Supreme Court has never accepted arguments such as those Dassey makes here as a basis for relief under Sullivan. Therefore, federal law prohibits the court from granting Dassey habeas relief on the first claim he presented to this court.
However, the state courts unreasonably found that the investigators never made Dassey any promises during the March 1, 2006 interrogation. The investigators repeatedly claimed to already know what happened on October 31 and assured Dassey that he had nothing to worry about. These repeated false promises, when considered in conjunction with all relevant factors, most especially Dassey’s age, intellectual deficits, and the absence of a supportive adult, rendered Dassey’s confession involuntary under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments. The Wisconsin Court of Appeals’ decision to the contrary was an unreasonable application of clearly established federal law.
IT IS THEREFORE ORDERED that Brendan Dassey’s petition for a writ of habeas corpus is GRANTED. The respondent shall release Dassey from custody unless, within 90 days of the date of this decision, the State initiates proceedings to retry him. See Jensen v. Schwochert, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 177420, 55 (E.D. Wis. Dec. 18, 2013). The Clerk shall enter judgment accordingly.

Pat Brown said...

I have no question Steven Avery committed rape and murder, but exactly what Dassey did is questionable. I believe he was there, he helped out in some way; I don't exactly no what level of involvement he had but if he is released at this point in time, after ten years, I am not too bent out of shape over it. I just want people to understand he is not being released because he is innocent of all wrongdoing.