The discussion surrounding Netflix’s “Making a Murderer” has come roaring back.
That’s because Brendan Dassey, one of its subjects, has just had his murder conviction overturned.
But what if you don’t know about his case or the show?
The true-crime series is primarily about Steven Avery, a man exonerated for a crime after spending 18 years in prison only to find himself charged of a heinous new crime. Dassey was convicted of the crime along with him.
Whether you believe Avery and Dassey are innocent of the murder or not, it’s impossible to walk away from the documentary without having some doubt in the American justice system and its process.
Here’s a quick recap of “Making a Murderer”:
Home at last: Steven Avery returned to his family in 2003 after being exonerated for the 1985 rape and assault of a woman, Penny Beerntsen, in his home county Manitowoc County, Wisconsin. He had already served 18 years in prison for the crime. New DNA evidence proved him innocent.
He's welcomed back with open arms and given the full attention of media and state politicians.
But this isn't the kind of treatment Avery is used to -- and his luck is about to change.
Steven Avery had a spotty past: The Avery family weren't ones to mix with the community in Manitowoc. They stuck to themselves and lived close to each other or on their family property, where they also ran an auto-salvage yard. They have been known to get in trouble with the law.
Avery's record before the rape arrest wasn't what you'd call clean. It included a few burglaries and cruelty to an animal -- he doused a cat with gasoline and placed it in a fire. Avery, who's revealed to have an IQ of 70, chalks it up to hanging with the wrong people.
But his family insists he would always admit to his wrongdoings if he actually did them.
And Avery seemed to be getting his life together. He got married and had kids.
Steven Avery crosses the police: Avery was accused by a local woman, and an Avery relative, of running her off the road and pulling a gun on her.
He admitted to doing so, though he claimed the gun wasn't loaded. His reason for doing so, he said, was that she had previously reported that he harassed her and made lewd gestures toward her.
She was married to a county deputy, which may have made matters worse for him, according to one theory of the case. Before he knew it, Avery was facing the charges of sexual assault and attempted murder. Beerntsen, who was brutally attacked while jogging, would later identify him as her attacker.
Even though Avery had an alibi and another police department identified a different possible suspect, Avery was convicted of the crimes and given 32 years without a chance for parole.
As we know, he would later be freed because of DNA evidence. In fact, the assailant was the police's other suspect, Gregory Allen, who attacked two other women while Avery was in prison.
While in prison for the rape conviction, Avery and his wife divorced and he lost any rights to his kids. Any extra money he or his family had went toward his appeals.
After he was freed, an investigation found no wrongdoing on the part of Manitowoc County's police in Avery's conviction.
Looking for justice, Avery decided to file a $36 million lawsuit against the county and officers who took part in his wrongful conviction.
Steven Avery arrested for the murder of Teresa Halbach: As Avery's civil case against Manitowoc County progressed, an AutoTrader magazine photographer, Teresa Halbach, was reported missing. Her last known whereabouts was on the Avery property. Halbach had an appointment with Avery to photograph a car there. Avery was soon a suspect.
Searches of the property would find Halbach's burned bones in a fire pit, her car partially hidden on the yard, blood stains on the car's interior, and her car keys in Avery's bedroom.
Avery was arrested and subjected to an interrogation without an attorney, but he didn't confess to killing Halbach. Still, things weren't looking good.
As the evidence mounted against Avery in the murder of Halbach, he decided to settle his civil suit with Manitowoc county for $400,000. He used the award to hire a strong defence team: Dean Strang and Jerry Buting.
They began gathering evidence to support a theory that Avery was being framed by local police for the murder.
Brendan Dassey's 'confession': While Steven Avery was the No. 1 suspect in Teresa Halbach's murder, he did have an alibi. He said he spent at least part of the time in which he was accused of murdering Halbach with his 16-year-old nephew and neighbour, Brendan Dassey.
Police jumped at the chance to bring in the young Dassey, who's learning-disabled, for questioning. Done without his mother or an attorney present, Dassey's questioning included details of the night with Avery that seemed more like suggestions by the police interrogators rather than things Dassey divulged himself.
In the end, the interrogation gave the officers what they needed to go forward on charges against Avery. And it would hurt his defence by turning his alibi, Dassey, into a possible prosecution witness against his uncle.
Dassey was interrogated twice more and incriminated Avery and himself both times. The second interrogation was performed by his court-appointed attorney Len Kachinsky's own investigator. He was then turned over to police for a third questioning. Kachinsky didn't attend either.
After Dassey changed details of the story he told police, Dassey's mother became convinced that Kachinsky believed her son was guilty and manipulated him into confessing. A first motion to replace the attorney was denied by a judge. But after it's discovered that he let Dassey speak to police without being present, Kachinsky was removed from the case.
Steven Avery's blood in the victim's car: After it was discovered that Lenk was the one who found the victim's car keys, Avery's defence team further dug for proof that their client was framed.
A sample of Avery's blood from the first case that wrongfully sent him to prison turned up looking as if someone tampered with it. A tiny hole, as from a syringe, was found in the test-tube cover.
It was a small win for the defence, but necessary in helping to establish that someone may have planted Avery's blood in Halbach's car.
After all, the blood is the only thing that placed Avery in the car. There were no fingerprints. That means he would have been wearing gloves. But if he were wearing gloves, how did he leave blood behind in the car?
During the trial, a judge would allow an FBI analyst to testify that he ran a test on the blood to prove it was not planted in the car, but came straight from Avery's body. It was a bad hit for the defence. You can read technical details about the debated test here.
During the trial, Teresa Halbach's voicemail became an issue. After she went missing, it was filled and unable to take new messages. Later, there was room on her voicemail, indicating that messages were erased. Investigators didn't look into who may have erased the messages.
Halbach's ex-boyfriend, Ryan Hillegas, testified that he guessed her password for her phone, which allowed her family to access her recordings while she was missing. But he said he didn't erase the messages. Halbach's brother, Mike Halbach, also testified that he didn't erase any messages.
When Avery's attorney, Jerry Buting, tried to introduce evidence of the erased messages, the judge said he didn't believe that they were relevant.
How did Sgt. Andrew Colborn know that about the victim's car? One incident that played favourably into the defence team's evidence-planting theory occurred during the testimony of Sgt. Andrew Colborn of the Manitowoc County Sheriff's Department.
He described calling in the licence-plate numbers for a missing person's car, which were allegedly given to him by another policeman. When the dispatcher identified it as Teresa Halbach's car, Colborn asked, ''99 Toyota, right?' And the dispatcher confirmed.
When Colborn was asked how he knew the make of Halbach's car, he was unable to recall where he got that information from. This took place two days before Halbach's car was found on the Avery property.
This episode revisited the role of the Manitowoc County Sheriff's Department in the investigation of Steven Avery and Teresa Halbach's murder.
To recap: At the beginning of the investigation, Avery had a $36 million civil suit in progress against Manitowoc County with officers from the sheriff's department also named. They were allowed to aid in the Halbach investigation under constant supervision of the Calumet County Sheriff's Department, though they weren't always supervised.
Calumet County's Deputy Daniel Kucharski's testimony: The officer testified to the investigation being solid. But he admitted that he was not around when Detective James Lenk found Halbach's keys in Avery's room -- after previous searches didn't turn them up. He believed the keys fell from a bookcase onto the floor, and somehow underneath a pair of slippers.
Detective James Lenk's testimony: He took the stand and testified that he didn't think it was wrong for officers being sued by a suspect to take part in a murder investigation of that suspect.
Sgt. Andrew Colborn's testimony: The officer took the stand and testified that he handled Avery's bookcase 'roughly,' and that it was possible the keys fell to the ground as a result.
Defence attorney Dean Strang also reviewed Colborn's decision not to report that he had been told another man was suspected of the rape and assault that Avery was serving prison time for. It would take eight years and Avery's exoneration by DNA testing for Colborn to report the call.
Halbach's car: The defence also showed that Halbach's car may not have been protected from tampering as the visitor log wasn't complete, even showing that Lenk signed in but didn't sign out on one occasion.
The defence brought in its own expert to attack the results of the FBI's test for EDTA, a chemical that blocks blood from solidifying in a test tube. If the chemical were discovered in samples of Avery's blood in Halbach's car, it would prove the defence's evidence-planting theory. But the test found no EDTA.
The defence's expert explained that there's no way to know what amount of EDTA would create a positive in the FBI testing and challenged the analyst's findings that the blood in Halbach's car came straight from Avery's body, since he had tested just three of the blood smears found in the car.
Avery's attorneys decided he would not testify.
In this episode, Steven Avery's trial comes to an end.
The defence's closing arguments: Jerry Buting went over the evidence that was lacking in the investigation: lack of blood splatters and bloody trails anywhere around the murder scene locations and no sign on the bed's headboard that anyone was restrained there. He didn't pull punches in pointing at Lt. James Lenk for the planting theory. The defence wasn't allowed to offer alternate suspects in the trial, so pointing to the police was seen as the best way to put doubt in the jury's minds.
The prosecution's closing arguments: Ken Kratz went over the evidence that placed Teresa Halbach inside Avery's trailer: a bill of sale and an AutoTrader magazine. He pointed to the bullet in the garage with Halbach's DNA on it, and the testimony that placed Halbach on the property. He also expressed how damaging accusations against the Manitowoc police officers are to their reputations, careers, and families.
The jury goes into deliberation: The jury didn't come back quickly with a decision, something the defence took as a good sign. But one juror was excused for a family emergency. It was up to Avery whether he wanted an alternate juror or a mistrial. He chose the alternate juror. The jury then returned with a guilty verdict for Avery in the first count of the murder of Teresa Halbach, a not-guilty verdict in the second count of the mutilation of Halbach's corpse, and a guilty verdict in the third count for possession of a firearm. The initial jury vote had seven jurors saying not guilty, suggesting quite a bit of movement in the decision.
Brendan Dassey's trial was up next.
Brendan Dassey's trial began with several setbacks already. Unlike his uncle, Steven Avery, he had court-appointed attorneys. Also, he previously confessed to helping his uncle kill Teresa Halbach during police questioning.
The confession: Dassey's attorneys pointed out that there was no scientific physical evidence connecting Dassey to the crime. They also described him as being extremely impressionable, which would explain why he told police what he felt they wanted him to say. While one of the interrogators, Sgt. Mark Wiegert of the Calumet County Sheriff's Department, was on the stand, the defence pummelled him with questions about the interrogation technique on Dassey. Wiegert said that he believed Dassey was telling the truth when he said he helped to kill Halbach and lied when he said he wasn't involved.
Dassey's state of mind: Dassey's cousin, 15-year-old Kayla Avery, was interviewed by police. Wiegert testified that she had said that Brendan admitted he saw Halbach 'pinned up' in Avery's bedroom and saw body parts later that evening in Avery's fire pit. On the stand, Kayla denied that Brendan ever told her those things and that she made them up. She did say that she found him sitting alone and sad at a birthday party, but that was the extent of her testimony.
Dassey takes the stand: Brendan insisted that he made up everything that he told the officers during the interrogations. As to the images he drew and talked about with the investigator, he said he got them from the book 'Kiss the Girls.'
Dassey was eventually found guilty.
No second chance for Steven: Avery filed an appeal using court-appointed attorneys, but it was denied by the same judge from his trial.
Having exhausted his options for a court-appointed attorney, Avery decided to go it alone. He asked for the case files to be sent to him in prison, and he looked for something that would enable him to get a new trial.
New advocates for Brendan Dassey: Avery's nephew, however, got the attention of Steven Drizin, an attorney who specialises in the coercion of false confessions and fought for videotaped interrogations. He and his cocounsel argued that Dassey's first attorney, Len Kachinsky, violated his duty of loyalty to his client and induced him to confess.
Kachinsky's investigator also testified to having written up negative research about the Dassey family, which showed his disdain for them. Dassey's team also reviewed how the investigator worked very hard to get a confession out of Dassey again, and then turned him over to the police to be interrogated again, without his attorney present.
Despite the arguments, Dassey's appeals for new trials were denied by two courts, and the Wisconsin Supreme Court refused to hear his case. His attorneys are trying to get the case accepted into a federal court.
Ken Kratz goes down: It's discovered that Calumet County DA Ken Kratz had been sending sexually suggestive texts to female clients, several of whom were victims of assault and domestic abuse. He would later step down from the position.
Avery and Dassey remain in prison, and continue to fight their convictions.
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