The popular Netflix documentary series Making a Murderer tells the story of Wisconsin man Steven Avery. In the 1980s, Avery was wrongfully convicted of rape. He was exonerated and released from prison in the early 2000s, thanks to new DNA evidence. Then, only a few years after his release, he was again convicted and sent to prison along with his nephew, Brendan Dassey. This time, the crime was murder.
The series has prompted much discussion over Avery and Dassey’s guilt, and over the possible errors and missteps made by law enforcement, prosecutors and others along the way. What is often overlooked in these discussions are the very real lessons that should be learned and kept in mind in the event you are ever accused of a crime.
1. Police Work Toward Convictions, Not Justice
The implication is made in Making a Murderer that Manitowoc police planted evidence against Avery, ignored other suspects and took further steps to ensure a conviction. While these allegations are certainly extreme, the fact remains that police have a job to do. They are paid to get criminals off the street, and may go to great lengths to see that their target is convicted. If you are accused of a crime, police are not on your side.
2. The Right To Remain Silent Must Be Invoked
One of the most disturbing scenes in Making a Murderer occurs when Dassey is questioned by police. The officers sit the young man down and spend hours asking him the same questions over and over, becoming friendly when he says something they can use and getting aggressive when he does not. Eventually, Dassey makes a confession, which he later claimed was false. This confession held up and ultimately led to his conviction. Had he invoked his right to remain silent, he may not be behind bars today.
3. The People Who Should Be On Your Side May Not Be
In the series, information is presented that seems to indicate that public defender Len Kachinsky, the person appointed to protect Dassey, actually took steps that led to the young man’s conviction. The truth is that most public defenders work hard to defend their clients. However, the reality of the situation is that they are often overworked. They have huge caseloads and serious time constraints. They may not be able to give each client the necessary time and attention.
4. Juries Are Not Perfect
In one scene, a juror who was excused from the Avery case makes statements indicating that perhaps the rest of the jurors were wrongly swayed to issue a guilty verdict by a more powerful juror. Since the release of the series, some of the jurors have stood by the decision, while others have not. Jurors are people. They are not perfect. Like everyone else, they have good days and bad days. They may not always make the right decision. When possible, trial by jury should be avoided. If it cannot be avoided, great care must be taken to ensure the jury understands all facets of a case.
5. An Experienced Attorney Should Be Contacted Immediately
There are stark contrasts between the experience and commitment level of the various attorneys involved in the Avery case. When a duo of respected attorneys finally gets involved, much has already transpired and time is lost doing damage control. In the event of being accused of a crime, you can benefit from getting an experienced, hands-on attorney involved from the very start. At Lloyd & DuPuy, we fight for honor, integrity and justice. We are prepared to take immediate action in any criminal defense case.
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