The average American watches 35 hours of television each week, according to an article published by the New York Daily News. Ten of my hours, I have no problem admitting, were recently dedicated to binge-watching the much discussed 10-episode Netflix documentary “Making a Murderer.”
The series first aired Dec. 18, 2015, and gave me a first-hand look at the injustices that plague the American criminal justice system. From tears to fury to utter shock, directors Laura Ricciardi and Moira Demos captured my attention from start to finish with this thought-provoking exposé.
“Making a Murderer” has been in the works for the past decade as it follows Steven Avery’s ongoing battle with the Manitowoc County, Wisc., justice system. First arrested in 1985, Avery spent 18 years in prison for a crime he never committed. The documentary highlights the unlawful conviction Avery faced until his exoneration in 2003.
In 2005, as Avery was just settling back into his pre-prison world, he again found himself under scrutiny from Manitowoc County. On Nov. 11, 2005, Avery was arrested and charged with the murder of Teresa Halbach, an Auto Trader magazine photographer whose final assignment on the day she disappeared was at Avery’s property. Avery has since been convicted of this crime and is currently serving a life sentence for a crime that, to this day, he still denies he committed.
Avery’s nephew, Brendan Dassey, is arguably, the true victim of this series aside from Halbach. After giving a controversial confession — which he later retracted — and dealing with abysmal legal representation, Dassey was convicted as Avery’s accomplice in the Halbach murder. Together they shed light on the unconstitutional behavior and questionable ethics of the Manitowoc County Police Department.
With many critics arguing the series overlooked major case details and painted a one-sided argument, I think this series does exactly what I hope a documentary would: It forced me to think .
Change.org currently hosts two petitions — one for Avery and one for Dassey- — that have each collected nearly 450,000 signatures. In need of only 50,000 more signatures, these petitions have the potential to force President Barack Obama to re-examine both cases.
Personally, I am yet to finalize my opinion on either case. Since completing the series, I have been scouring the Internet for more information to generate a more comprehensive understanding of the different aspects of the cases.
I do, however, feel this documentary revealed a flawed justice system that, hopefully, with the recent attention brought to it by this series, will be forced to change.
I strongly urge Netflix users to take a weeklong sabbatical from whatever sitcom or reality TV show they are currently watching and generate their own opinions on this series. Unlike the majority of television today, this series forces you to reflect. This series forces viewers to feel something. Most importantly, this series will force you to generate an opinion.
Raine Paul is a graduate student and graduate assistant for the Journalism and New Media program at California Baptist University.