On Monday, June 25th, Supreme Court decided not to take up Brendan Dassey’s case, who was made a star by Netflix’s popular documentary series “Making A Murderer”. I’ve watched the series twice actually, originally for pleasure and then again in my high school Forensic’s Science class. My teacher, Mrs. Fetsco, showed “Making A Murderer” once a week during class throughout the semester until we completed the series. The final for the class, an assignment worth 20% of our final grade, was to present our ‘verdict’ regarding the case in groups of 5, backing up our decision with specific pieces of evidence, analysis and reasoning with tactics taught to us in the classroom.

I already had my mind made up that Dassey and other central figure Steven Avery were undoubtably innocent from my initial run-through of the Netflix series. Watching the show my second time around only pumped an exceeding amount of confidence into my beliefs, something that serves to be a very dangerous thing for us Rockind’s. As my teacher announced our assigned groups, I honestly felt a bit of sympathy between each named called along with mine, considering that I acted as though I had magically just aced the bar 5 minutes ago anytime the law was even briefly mentioned during school. A totally unprecedented sense of authority that I credited myself to, which now looking back on was self-entitled solely on the basis that I had only sometimes, somewhat paid attention to my dad’s work. Thinking about it, what I find even more ridiculous is that even the other students granted me that credibility solely because of who my dad was, when in reality I didn’t know even know the meaning of the phrase “filing a motion”. But hey, everyone’s got perks in life, mine happen to be primarily useful in situations like my high school forensic’s science class. Don’t get me wrong, working with the people in this group wouldn’t exactly have been my first choice either as they initially doubted Dassey and Avery’s innocence. Now that I think about it… maybe I’ll look into applying for a job at Netflix after I post this considering it took me around 30 minutes to make the same point that they took them 10 years of production to make. Eventually we all agreed that Steven Avery and Brendan Dassey were not guilty, becoming the official position for our project. We honestly thought the assignment was going to be extremely easy, however, as we developed our report aimed to prove their innocence, it became increasingly harder to stick to that position.

This project opened my eyes to the true power of manipulation through mass media. The majority of individuals who made a conclusion on the Avery/Dassey case solely based on “Making A Murderer” believe the two are completely innocent and were framed by the Manitowoc police department, just as I had originally. Now, I’m not saying that the two are guilty, rather just that Netflix does a very, very good job at avoiding any doubts surrounding their innocence.  As my group and I did some additional research in an attempt to back up our claim , we actually ended up finding out that Netflix left out quiet a bit of information that’s harmful towards Avery/Dassey and definitely questions their innocence. In their defense, if I had also spent 10 years of my own life producing this documentary I would have tried to leave as much of this out as possible too.

Here’s a screenshot from Time Magazine’s article on left out evidence 

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According to Time, the creators of the show Moira Demos and Laura Ricciardi said it would have been “just impossible” to include every fact in the series. 

I just revisited my final project from high school, remembering that I had provided a list of all the information the TV show left out after hours of research. Here is that list

– During Dassey’s session with investigator Mike O’Kelley he agreed to taking a polygraph test. The official results of the test indicate he failed it.

– Leg irons and handcuffs were found in Avery’s residence and in Dassey’s

– The car key unearthed in Avery’s residence had DNA from his sweat on it, the prosecutor says 

– Dassey’s mother said Dassey helped Avery clean his garage floor

– The previous animal cruelty case involved a bonfire

– Avery had drawn a torture chamber while in prison and was violent to other women

– Avery once opened his door “just wearing a towel” when Halbach went to his property previously

– Avery called Auto Trader to specifically request Halbach the day she died

– Avery called Halbach’s cell phone three times the day she was murdered, twice using the Star-67 feature to hide his identity

– Avery gave a false name when he called Auto Trader

– The burnt bone fragments were mixed with steel tire belts

– Avery’s rifle is forensically tied to the bullet with the Halbach’s DNA on it

It seems as though the only facts that the creators “didn’t have enough time for” are one’s that hurt their cause. Although it is understandable that while not every fact needs to be included, every fact that needs to be included, needs to be included. More specifically, the show didn’t just cut down the interrogation from hours into minutes, but it also left out crucial parts of Dassey’s confession.

Here is what was left out:

– Dassey admits to stabbing Halbach in the stomach after Avery took her out to the garage. He also claims that Avery fired five shots into Halbach’s head.

– He admits that the entire murder was premeditated. He said they had been planning it “for a few days.” Dassey claims Avery said he was going to kill her, and he wanted Dassey’s help.

– Avery picked Halbach because “she looked good and she was pretty nice.”

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“Making A Murderer” was not just another popular TV show that people watched — it actually had a very strong influence on it’s audience, causing more than 128,000 people to sign a petition to the White House asking that the two be pardoned. The White House denied the request as the President does not have the power to pardon people convicted out of state courts.

Although I am very skeptical of the way the Manitowoc police department has generally treated the Avery family, specifically how they handled this case, it is reasonable to believe that after learning these pieces of, what seems to be, intentionally left out information, I had developed a carefully manipulated disposition for the case from “Making A Murderer”. This is when I realized creators Ricciardi and Demos were able to bring such profound awareness to Avery/Dassey’s case and effectively spread such a strongly biased opinion by taking advantage of the millennial and it’s culture. Shaped by a world that places much emphasis on media, the millennial mind has grown accustomed to trusting and valuing media as their culture is centered around it. The creators recognized that cultural characteristic and took advantage it, gaining access to the millennial mind through the highly valued service Netflix and manipulating it using a TV show, ultimately transforming millennials into a device to help their cause by spreading their message through their very own culture. We need to learn to place less trust into media for reasons such as “Making A Murderer”, and start having more faith in much more reliable systems such as our own government.  All in all, the fact the Supreme Court is not taking up Dassey’s case does not surprise me.

Although I have often found the judicial system to be unjust to a degree, which I’m not eliminating that from Avery or Dassey’s case as I find the interrogation to be extremely invasive, manipulating and overall investigation just all around inappropriate, I do have faith that their decision was made thoroughly and thoughtfully. I’m more than positive the judges are fully aware of the show’s impact, making the case highly publicized and causing a majority concerned about the topic to believe that the two are completely innocent, and I’m sure it has influenced them to handle the case very thoughtfully and thoroughly. Yet the courts have decided against the demands of the masses by refusing to take up Dassey’s case, giving me confidence that between the balance of justice and scrutiny, the right decision was made, and that “Making A Murderer” is more ‘biased’ than ‘credible’.

Aliya Rockind
Rockind Law