Making a Murderer Part 2 is inescapable, controversial, and chilling. Steven Avery and Brendan Dassey were incarcerated for the heinous rape and murder of Teresa Halbach - a straight win for the State of Wisconsin - with justice prevailing in the name of an innocent girl. Except, we now know that justice may not have prevailed. Justice may have been coercive, untruthful and unconstitutional.
Enter Kathleen Zellner; a remarkable and beguiling lawyer with a stellar track record for overturning false convictions. Kathleen’s fastidious attention to detail has uncovered a wealth of information that refutes, in the most compelling way, the case put forward by the State. In fact, 300 pages were submitted to request a evidentiary hearing based on ‘explosive’ new evidence. Despite eye-watering inconsistencies and irregularities with the State’s original case coupled with new forensic evidence that appears, at face value, to be irrefutable, the judicial system refuse to acknowledge the document with anything other than cynicism and scepticism. The hearing is denied.
Meanwhile, the State’s legal team which included the now infamous Ken Kratz, refute any new proof questioning the conviction of Steven Avery or Brendan Dassey. And in almost every carefully choreographed press conference and interview, they talk about the Halbach family being unable to find peace and closure because lawyers like Kathleen Zellner won’t desist in the egregious pursuit of Avery’s freedom.
And it’s here that lies the most alarming part of the story. Why, when faced with such a persuasive mountain of new evidence, would anybody who genuinely cared about a meaningful resolution for the Halbach family, want to deny an opportunity to find the truth? If peace, justice and closure are so important to the State, surely 100% of their attention would be entirely focussed on delivering just that?
Unless, of course, finding peace, justice and closure implicate them negatively in the process. For Ken Kratz et al., revisiting the case as reviewed by Kathleen Zellner would ultimately expose major and deliberate irregulars in their prosecution. That includes planting evidence, withholding information, lies and coercion. For the justice system, revisiting the case would expose unethical foundations upon which this case was constructed in the first place, bringing in to question the very heart of American law.
Where is the appetite for either the State or judiciary to do the right thing for Steven Avery, Brendan Dassey and the Halbach family? Why would they choose to willingly reopen this case and risk exposure that could undermine personal, professional and constitutional reputations? Why would they willingly poke the nest and reveal the most chilling of truths - Teresa Halbach’s murderer was never caught. Teresa Halbach’s murderer was never even looked for.
The very people and establishments who suffer this negative exposure are the very people and establishments that legally determine whether this case should be re-opened in the first place; a further perverse twist. The more facts are uncovered, the greater the need for a retrial. The greater the need for a retrial, the more focus on the failings of the State and legal system. The more focus on the failings, the more determination to prevent the case from reopening. And so on.
Even if you believe that Steven Avery and Brendan Dassey are guilty, a position that becomes increasingly questionable, the fact remains that new evidence obtained by Kathleen Zellner and her team is SO persuasive that a retrial needs to happen; it is a legal and constitutional right to have it heard. And to block it on any level only serves to deepen the public distrust and raise the question why? If there’s one thing that underpins any civilised society, it’s the fairness and transparency of its justice system. Belief in that is what’s at stake now.
There’s a very famous quote from Martin Luther King Jr: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.” And that’s what I feel about legal injustices. If it can happen to one, it can happen to many. Which is why lawyers like Kathleen Zellner are so important. They ask the right questions and aren’t afraid to push for the right resolutions. They work to prevent aberrations, deliberate or otherwise, developing in to institutional norms which ultimately undermine the rule of law.
The case of Steven Avery and Brendan Dassey has a long way to go before any injustices can be addressed to the satisfaction of all of those concerned. When they do, perhaps it will make way for a new instalment of Making A Murderer that releases the innocent, punishes the guilty, restores faith in the legal system and genuinely provides peace, closure and justice for the Halbach family.