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19 Things Making A Murderer Covered Up About The Steven Avery Case

 

With the official announcement of the release date for the second series of Making A Murderer, now is the perfect time to look back at the controversial, brilliant first season, and some of the questions it missed out…

It turns out there are three kinds of people: those who believe Steven Avery is guilty, those who believe he’s innocent and those who recognise that – either way – it doesn’t really matter.

Which camp you stand in will determine what type of anger you felt at the end of Making A Murderer, because that can only have been the over-riding result of that show for every viewer. Despite being held up as a paragon of just virtue, it seems Making A Murderer didn’t exactly present the whole story. For either side. In the words of “disgraced” Wisconsin DA Ken Kratz Making A Murderer “‘really presents misinformation”, and sought to uphold its agenda of presenting Steven Avery as guilty.

So in other words, the show basically did what it was accusing the justice system of doing: deciding a case not in process, but as a foundation point. That much is clear for Kratz, at least. The film-makers, inevitably, have responded, suggesting that they only left out details that they thought unimportant – or less important – to the the case, as Moira Demos confirmed:

“The things I’ve heard listed as things we’ve left out seem much less convincing of guilt than Teresa’s DNA on a bullet or her remains in his backyard.”

Still, that missing information amounts to an intriguing missing element of the show, and the way the collective consciousness has responded to the case in retrospect. And it is valuable to present the missing facts that suggest both guilt and innocence and which were apparently ignored by the show-makers, even without prejudice. Be prepared, there’s a lot…

19. There Was More DNA Found On Halbach’s Car Than Was Revealed

Obviously the apparent evidence of planting evidence – and specifically the presence of suspicious blood inside Halbach’s car – was particularly intriguing from a narrative point of view. When the revelation of the needle theory followed it, the show had one of its most striking hooks, which would have lost impact if there was any other DNA found in the car that would have been more difficult to plant. Which is precisely what there was. The show missed out the fact that some of Avery’s DNA – sweat to be precise – was found under the hood of Halbach’s car.

That much was only discovered after Brendan Dassey’s confession – which included mention of Avery unhooking the battery from her car Ken Kratz has called the planting notion ridiculous: ‘How do you get Avery-s sweat underneath a hood latch of a vehicle? That is completely inconsistent with any kind of planting.’ Obviously, the question of the lack of finger prints and how he’d get his DNA anywhere with gloves on is still pertinent, but you have to wonder why the show left out the point about sweat being found.

18. The Prosecution “Tried To Get The Show Stopped”

Perhaps to not paint the prosecution as more vindictive than they were already being presented as, Laura Ricciardi and Moira Demos chose not to mention the fact that Ken Kratz had served them a subpoena during filming, urging them to present key evidence against Avery in court and effectively shutting them down entirely.

As Demos told Indiewire:

“We were two independent filmmakers. We wouldn’t have had the money, and certainly it would have taken a ton of time to duplicate our footage, close to 300 hours of footage at that time, just to produce all of that for the state would have shut us down.”

Ricciardi also qualified:

“Ken Kratz was alleging in acting as an investigative arm of the defence. So we brought the motion to quash the subpoena, refuting Mr. Kratz’s accusations as baseless.”

Kratz’s stand-point was that they had evidence relating to the case, and demanded they turn over every recorded phone conversation with Avery – which ultimately got the subpoena thrown out as he already had access thanks to the prison system recording every outgoing call.

As Riccardi said: “Getting the subpoena felt like hostility coming toward us.” So why not mention it?

 

17. The Other Rape Allegation

The show highlighted the accusation of rape against Penny Beerntsen that sent Avery to prison for 18 years wrongfully, but they didn’t touch on the other allegations of sexual assault.

According to a story by the Appleton Post Crescent, in 2004 Avery was investigated for the sexual assault of his teenage cousin and another girl, both of whom were threatened to silence:

“The filings also include statements from a woman, now 41, who said she was raped by Avery, who told her ‘if she yelled or screamed there was going to be trouble.’ There also is an affidavit from a girl who said she was raped by Avery. ‘The victim’s mother indicated that the victim does not want to speak about the sexual assault between her and Steven Avery because Steven Avery told her if she ‘told anyone about their activities together he would kill her family… The affidavit said Avery admitted to his fiancee that he had sexually assaulted the girl.”

Neither accusation turned into a concrete charge, but it does paint a slightly different picture of why the police department might have considered him a prime suspect for the Beernstein case.

16. The Other Juror Who Admits She Thinks Avery Is Innocent

The question of jury bias was mentioned in the documentary, but almost glossed over aside from the troubled testimony of dismissed juror, Richard Mahler, but it seems to have gone beyond the level discussed.

Ricciardi and Demos now say that they have more evidence that the jury was compromised, as another juror has subsequently reached out to them to admit they think Avery was framed:

” told us that they believe Steven Avery was not proven guilty. They believe Steven was framed by law enforcement and that he deserves a new trial, and if he receives a new trial, in their opinion it should take place far away from Wisconsin.”

The allegation states that there was behind-the-scenes vote-trading, which lead to the compromise that was suggested in the show.

“That was the actual word the juror used and went on to describe the jurors ultimately trading votes in the jury room and explicitly discussing, ‘If you vote guilty on this count, I will vote not guilty on this count.””

Demos added that the jurors had feared for their own safety if they had held out for a mistrial, so they compromised, sending Avery to jail. And the film-makers say that the mystery juror is willing to serve as a “source” for a new trial.

15. Avery Was Not Adjusting Well After Prison

Despite the picture painted of Avery as delighted to be free and getting on with his life quietly, adjusting to life outside and throwing himself into work, reports at the time of his case against Manitowoc suggest he was not adjusting well. One Herald Times article expressed it as him simply struggling with his freedom, saying he moved into a small fishing shanty despite having been locked up in a similarly small room for almost two decades.

Reddit has theorised that he missed the confines of prison.

Whatever the theory, the presentation of him as a happy go lucky guy enjoying his freedom and minding his own business was not the case, despite it also appearing in news coverage at the time.

His plight was so uncomfortable – despite claims it was “just as before” – that legislator, Gary Bies of Sister Bay, was compelled to set up a fund to help him. Now, that’s no admission of guilt, but it’s a strange thing not to show, particularly as it showed the cost of Avery’s imprisonment to the man himself.

14. The Bleached Floor

It was inevitable that some viewers would be outraged at the way Brendan Dassey was led into his “confession”, as it appeared that the detectives interviewing him had fabricated a story out of nowhere that he unwittingly corroborated. But the actual timeline suggests that Dassey’s potential involvement came from a more telling source.

An article that appeared in Milwaukee Magazine stated that “On February 27, Dassey’s mother spoke with police investigators. Barbara Janda, 41, mentioned that her son had stained his pants while helping his uncle clean his garage floor around Halloween.”

That fits with the Department of Justice investigator’s testimony during Dassey’s trial that the teenager’s pants been stained white by bleach, and that he said they had happened when he helped clean the garage. Not entirely incriminating, of course, but interesting all the same.

13. The Anonymous Letter

As reported in The Milwaukee Journal, on March 8th, 2007, the defence team wanted to present a letter to the jury that was mailed anonymously to the Manitowoc County Sheriff’s office revealing that Halbach’s body had been burnt in the smelter at the salvage yard.

The defence team said the letter – from which no fingerprints could be pulled – was more indication that key evidence was ignored wilfully when it didn’t fit their theory. The prosecution said the letter came after they’d already ruined the smelter out of the investigation, but the source of the letter remains a mystery.

Oddly, the smelter did come up in the docu-series – as evidence that Avery could have hidden evidence of Halbach’s body a lot easier than he did – but the letter remained unmentioned.

12. Teresa’s Camera And Palm Pilot Were Found In Avery’s Burn Barrel

Steven Avery’s burn barrel was mentioned as a key part of the case for both sides: the defence suggested that it could have been used to transport Halbach’s body to Avery’s home to plant the bone fragments, while the prosecution said it was a second burn site.

The fact that there were bone fragments found in the barrel was obviously discussed – perhaps because it fit the idea of framing and brought balance – but what wasn’t discussed by the documentary was the fact that Teresa’s palm pilot and phone were found in the barrel too. That much was only revealed in December by Angenette Levy, one of the reporters who is seen in the show’s press conferences.

It’s an odd thing to have missed.

11. The Bullet Came From A Confiscated Gun

Clearly, the incriminating bullet that was found in Avery’s garage was a cause for serious debate. How come it wasn’t found at first? Why was the flawed DNA process not scrutinised further? Wasn’t it all very convenient, considering the frequency that the Averys admitted to firing bullets?

The documentary seemed to suggest that the bullet was to be considered as merely coincidental, assuming it wasn’t planted, and that it could have been fired at any time. It’s curious then that they didn’t state in the documentary that the bullet that was found to have Halbach’s DNA on it actually came from the gun that Avery kept above his bed.

And more importantly, that gun was confiscated in the initial search of the property, making it impossible for it to have been shot after the alleged killing. Or making it easier for the PD to stage a shooting, if they so desired. Either way it would have been narratively pertinent information to include.

10. Brendan DID Reveal Details About The Crime Himself

Again, Brendan Dassey’s coerced confession was one of the more emotionally devastating components of the show, which painted him as a naive, intellectually sub-normal child whose major concerns were watching WrestleMania, handing in homework and getting home to his family.

The idea that he had had his confession planted in his head by the police was also one of the show’s biggest hooks, and the footage of his interrogations (and the circumstances of them) was despicable. To storytellers, it would have been irresistible content, so it’s somewhat inevitable that they missed out some of the bits where it was clear that Dassey was presenting information of his own accord.

No matter how flawed the process – particularly in terms of his own defence – the full transcript of his confession confirms that he actually gave a very detailed account, including stating that Avery pulled the gun he used from above his bed.

9. Avery Accused His Brothers Of Murdering Teresa

According to legal documents obtained by TMZ, in 2009 Steven Avery claimed that his own two brothers – Earl and Charles – may have killed Halbach. He claimed that both had a history of sexually assaulting women, including one instance when Earl pled no contest to sexually assaulting his own two daughters.

Charles meanwhile was charged with sexually assaulting his wife, holding her down and throttling her with a phone cord before having sex with her. That isn’t the end of his rap sheet either: he had also been accused of hounding three more female clients aggressively including turning up at their homes.

According to Avery’s documents, all of the women were harassed within a single month of the time Halbach went missing. And as an added kicker, Avery says his brothers had motive, as the family were fighting over the business and they were jealous of his impending multi-million dollar settlement for the wrongful conviction.

Yet no mention of any of these accusations were included in the documentary.

8. Two Jurors Were Related To Members Of The Police Department

One of the most stunning revelations since the documentary aired, and which was for some reason left out of the show, is that dismissed juror Richard Mahler found out that two of the jurors in the trial were related to members of the county’s police department, as he stated to People:

“After the trial, I found out… was the father of a Manitowoc County Sheriff’s deputy. Another juror, his wife works for the Manitowoc County Clerk’s Office… I thought to myself, they shouldn’t have been on the jury. That was a conflict of interest.”

Not only that, Mahler also revealed that he had met up with another of the jury to go to a concert and asked how the jury had come up with a guilty verdict despite the early vote having seven innocent votes, three guilty and two undecided…

“…His statement was, ‘Just think of all those things he did when he was younger.’ I thought to myself, ‘Are you serious?'”This trial was supposed to be based on the evidence that was presented to us. You’re telling us that you convicted him based on what he did when he was younger. I did a lot of bad things when I was younger. That doesn’t mean I deserve to be locked up for life.”

Wouldn’t that have been interesting information to include in relation to the questions over the impartiality of the jury?

7. Avery’s Torture Chamber

Incredibly damningly for Steven Avery, Ken Kratz gave an interview to People magazine in which he revealed that during his time in prison the first time round, Avery allegedly “told another inmate of his intent to build a ‘torture chamber’ so he could rape, torture and kill young women when he was released. He even drew a diagram.”

Further, Kratz claimed that “another inmate was told by Avery that the way to get rid of a body is to ‘burn it.'” Additionally, Kratz revealed that Halbach’s bones “were ‘intertwined’ with the steel belts, left over from the car tires Avery threw on the fire to burn,” indicating that the body was burned on site and not later moved.

That is a slight misrepresentation of the trial though, as a Milwaukee Journal article from March 2007 states that the arson expert – Rod Pevytoe -called as a witness said that it could either indicate that the tires were used as an accelerant (with Halbach’s body on top of them), OR it could indicate that her bones had been moved and scattered on top of the remains of the belts.

In both cases, that information was mysteriously left out of the documentary.

6. The Extent Of Avery’s Animal Cruelty

As PETA have been discussing recently, the animal cruelty case against Avery that was discussed in passing by the documentary – and largely dismissed as his accidentally setting fire to a cat by the man himself – was unnecessarily downplayed.

Colleen O ‘Brien, a senior director at the organisation said Making A Murderer “omitted specific details about how Avery, at age 20, doused the family cat with lighter fluid before throwing him onto a fire.”

That is a noticeably different picture, and while it doesn’t exactly confirm guilt in other crimes, it paints a more malicious image of Avery. Thus its lack of inclusion looks like a conscious effort to sweep information under the rug.

5. The Time Avery Greeted Halbach At His Home In A Towel

Further information from Ken Kratz seems to have been rather carelessly ignored. In the same interview with People, he revealed that on October 10th 2005, Halbach visited the Avery property for a photoshoot, and was greeted by Avery at his door “just wearing a towel”:

“She was creeped out … She said she would not go back because she was scared of him.”

It’s curious that the documentary wouldn’t take the time to address that moment. Especially when Dean Strang responded to the missing evidence during an interview with Huffington Post that confirmed that the incident was “blown out of proportion.” He said that two of her former Auto Trader coworkers testified as witnesses and said Halbach’s reaction to Avery was more “ew” than fear, a fact backed up by an Associated Press story from Feb. 14, 2007:

“She had stated to me that he had come out in a towel,” Pliszka said while the jury was outside of the courtroom. “I just said, ‘Really?’ and then she said, ‘Yeah,’ and laughed and said kinda ‘Ew.'”

The AP article said the judge would not allow the testimony to be heard by the jury “because the date wasn’t clear and few details were known about the alleged encounter.”

Strang said “This is a good example of less significant prosecution evidence omitted and defense evidence omitted,” but surely in light of the reactions to the incident not being included in the documentary, it should have been?

4. He Bought Shackles 3 Weeks Before The Murder

Pretty much all of the evidence presented in the documentary raised some doubts over the legitimacy of the case against Avery, which made for good TV, obviously, but there was a fairly sizeable missing exhibit that might have turned a few heads.

According to the criminal complaint, authorities “located items of restraints within Steven Avery’s residence including hand cuffs and leg irons.”

So the idea that Halbach was shackled to the bed wasn’t entirely fabricated out of thin air. Some handcuffs were also found in Brendan Dassey’s mother’s home.

Avery apparently claimed the shackles belonged to him – “I bought them. I wanted to try out something different with Jodi (his girlfriend)” – and no DNA belonging to Avery or Dassey was found on them. So even if the documentary had mentioned them, they had a counter-argument ready made, which makes the decision not to include them all the more confusing.

Maybe he was just a fan of off-kilter sexual activity? They did also confiscate pornography in the search of his home.

3. Brendan Dassey Told His Mother He Had Allegedly Been Molested By Avery

In one recorded telephone conversation between Brendan Dassey and his mother, which was only partially included in the show, the young man told his mother that Avery had touched him and other family members inappropriately in the past. Stunningly, she seemed at least partly aware of the behaviour, though not of the sinister implications:

Mom. That Steven made you do it. You know he made you do a lot of things.Brendan. Ya, I told them that. I even told them about Steven touching me and that.

M. What do you mean touching you?

B. He would grab me somewhere where I was uncomfortable.

M. Brendan I am your mother.

B. Ya.

M. Why didn’t you come to me? Why didn’t you tell me? Was this all befo.re this happened?

B. What do you mean?

M. All before this happened, did he touch you before all this stuff happened to you.

B. Ya.

M. Why didn’t you come to me, because then he would have been gone then and this wouldn’t have happened.

B. Ya ..

M. Yes, and you would still be here with me.

B. Yes, Well you know I did it.

M. Huh

B. You know he always touched us and that.

M. I didn’t think there. He used to horse around with you guys.

B. Ya, but you remember he would always do stuff to Brian and that.

M. What do you mean.

B. Well he would like fake pumping him

M. Goofing around

B. Ya but, like that one time when he was going with what’s her name Jessica .. s sister.

M. Teresa?

B. Ya. That one day when she was over, Steven and Blaine and Brian and I was downstairs and Steven was touching her and that.

That sounds pretty damning, even if it was part of the confession that was said to be coerced from Dassey. That confession was supposed to be thrown out, but the prosecution used segments of it, and it seems odd that the show-makers wouldn’t include that snippet either to show the extent of the confession that was coerced from Brendan, or to show more of the complexities of the case.

The issue of the allegation that Dassey sold crack was also noticeably absent, strangely.

2. Avery’s Odd Behaviour Towards Halbach

Beyond the time he appeared in a towel – which could be nothing if it was in any other context, of course – some of Avery’s behaviour around Halbach was suspiciously odd to say the least. Of the details missing from the docu-series, the following are arguably the most important:

On the day of the murder, according to Auto Trader receptionist Dawn Pliszka, Avery called her on Oct. 31, 2005 “to request the photographer who had been out to the property previously.” In other words, Halbach. Avery called Halbach’s phone three times that day, twice using the Star-67 feature to hide his number. On the day of Halbach’s appointment, prosecutors said that “Avery lured Halbach to the family salvage yard by booking an appointment with the magazine, using the name of his sister Barb Janda, to take a picture of a red minivan that Janda wanted to sell.”There’s an explanation to the last one – as it was his sister’s car that Halbach was due to photograph, but together with the other points, it looks like the kind of information an impartial investigation of the case might bring up.

1. Jodi Thinks Steven Is A Guilty Monster

In the series, Jodi Stachowski simply fades into the background: her involvement removed from the show when she ends her relationship with Avery in order to stop the police “messing with her”.

That’s nowhere near the full story, and she know asserts both that she was never in love with him (an inconsequential revelation to the case) and that she believes he’s guilty.

In an interview that aired on Nancy Grace, Stachowski called Avery a monster behind closed doors, and accused him of violent abuse which led to a desperate attempt to get away from him:

“I ate two boxes of rat poison just so I could go to the hospital and get away from him and ask them to get the police to help me.”

The extent of the frictions in their relationship were glossed over by the show, which seemed to paint the image of a doting girlfriend, but Stachowski now claims the directors asked her to behave in a way that “made him look good”. Ultimately she declined further participation when the pair split (though she did get a threatening letter from Steven in prison), and actually asked to be removed from the show entirely. That much was never revealed either.

She has said she was compelled to speak out becausethe show is “full of a bunch of lies.”

What else have you found that was missing from Making A Murderer? Share your finds, reactions and analysis below in the comments thread.

 

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