This original Netflix documentary series has been getting great reviews of late on social media, and with the need to save money in the new year and stay indoors, this series looking into the many miscarriages of justice that went against Steven Avery, a small town simpleton from Mantiwoc, Wisconsin who got convicted of a rape he did not commit and spent 18 years in prison. And that was who his problems began.
The series is a labour of love for the co-creators Laura Ricciardi and Moira Demos (Demos serves as cinematographer and editor also), who delve deeply into the story of Avery who has to overcome small town prejudice to clear his name once he is out of prison. Having been freed following his wrongful imprisonment, he set about suing the county court, district attorney and sheriff for their errors. However, two years after being freed for rape Avery is charged for murder by the same town and district court of Wisconsin.
The story is hard hitting, full of moments that will have you aghast at the seemingly unbelievable behaviour of law enforcement officials and agencies who believed a hunch and set about to systematically destroy the livelihood and well being of one man and his family, because of a petty row from years before.
Steven Avery has an IQ of 70, he is not capable of crimes that are heinously thought through, he is a child and thinks accordingly. He loves his family and they love him, they all admit he could not be capable of such acts. The lengths the police went to to get the guy they wanted is an edictment of the police department which is corrupt and full of discrimination across class as well as race borders.
Following recent events in America over the last two years leading yo race riots when white police officers have not had a case to answer for their illegal actions, it is quite haunting to realise that the police force was doing this back in more innocent times of 1985. But is there really any innocent times when you have a police force protecting you as bad as this?
After one episode (out of 10) you wonder how deep and how shocking can this for Avery as he tries to get off with a murder charge.
The film is an amazing odyssey through the traps and machinations of the judicial process in Wisconsin. And while the story is primarily focused on Steve Avery with obvious reason, as his face adorns all the publicity material, the more shocking thread of the ten part series is the parallel narrative of Steve's nephew, Brandan Dassey, who as a young 16 year old of limited mental capacity is bullied by interrogators to confess to his being at the crime scene thus incriminating himself in the process all without a parent or legal representation present to prevent him from doin just that. The police are shown to be just as manipulative as they claim Avery to be in taking advantage of a young mentally handicapped individual; it also shows their desperation to build up a prosecution against Avery in the worst way by attempting to rip the family apart.
|Dean Strang and Jerry Buling|
The documentary also critiques the way the media mostly the television media helped create this tale in their news reports, making it impossible for Avery to get a fair trial in his hometown as the media and police painted a guilty verdict before a trial began. To think this all occurred in 2005 to 2007 before the existence of Twitter and the age of immediacy, where instant judgment is all around us and offered without thought or reflection.
All in all though, an old bit of wisdom comes to mind, the truth is stranger than fiction.