My recent brush with jury duty got me thinking about the Steven Avery case from Making a Murderer again, and how the legal system should handle it.
With the Netflix series making some waves, there have been two camps forming. On one hand there are people who think Steven Avery should be released from prison. These people even had a Change.org petition, before it was pointed out that Avery isn’t a federal prisoner, and therefore the Whitehouse can’t pardon him. On the the other side are people who point out that the documentary left out information that is incriminating towards Avery, in particular previous behavior towards Teresa Halbach that could be characterized as creepy and obsessive.
Both of these positions are simplistic, based on there only being two possibilities.
- Steven Avery committed the murder, and the prosecution’s case against him accurately reflects what happened.
- Steven Avery had nothing to do with Halbach’s death, and the police went to great lengths to frame him.
But there are other possibilities, none of which Making the Murderer explore perhaps as much as they should.
- Someone other than Steven Avery committed the murder, and framed Avery to cover up the crime.
- Steven Avery committed the murder, and the police framed him to make sure their case stuck.
It’s really this last one that I suspect is closest to the truth. There are plenty of things that the police found that don’t make sense, the most obvious being the key to Halbach’s SUV being found in Avery’s bedroom after it had been searched many times. I would guess the key was found in a burn pit, and the police cleaned it up and pretended they found it inside. The only thing I don’t understand is why they would say it was in such a obvious place. If you’re going to plant evidence somewhere you’ve already searched, at least say you found it somewhere really hidden.
In any case, I’m wondering how you’re supposed handle the possibility that the accused might have been framed if you’re on a jury. I guess that would be the definition of reasonable doubt. But what if the person who was framed actually committed the crime, you’re responsible for a criminal being free. As a juror you’re ultimately responsible for determining the facts of the case, and the police framing someone really makes that responsibility impossible to discharge.