Making a Murderer Review of Episode 1
Making a Murderer Episode 1 Review
More addictive than nicotine, more twists than a 60’s dance-off, this Netflix documentary will have you immersed in the heart breaking, unfortunate life of Stephen Avery. It starts with a background assessment by lawyers on the Avery family’s standing in the local community of Manitowoc, a region in Wisconsin, US.
They were in the car wrecker business, and owned a car scrap yard. Stephen had a past record and ‘done some stupid things’ which merited some unfavourable attention from the police department. One of these incidents was the harassment of Sandy, his cousin, who happened to be married to a Manitowoc Police Department Officer.
Sandy had been telling stories about Stephen, denigrating his character (by saying he had committed sex acts on the lawn), and she wouldn’t stop. So Stephen took matters into his own hands, ran her off the road and pointed an (unloaded) gun at her. Stephen had barely functioned at school, with an IQ of 70, he was part of the ‘undesirable members of the community’. He was prosecuted by the law, but he would have more chance of survival if he’d entered a bear cage that were fed leftovers from a refuge camp.
Idle chatter from Sandy started a sordid chain of events that would take years to unfold, and could have been stopped at any time by fair minded people in positions of authority.
“In the same way, the tongue is a small thing that makes grand speeches. But a tiny spark can set a great forest on fire. And among all the parts of the body, the tongue is a flame of fire. It is a whole world of wickedness, corrupting your entire body. It can set your whole life on fire, for it is set on fire by hell itself. People can tame all kinds of animals, birds, reptiles, and fish, but no one can tame the tongue. It is restless and evil, full of deadly poison.” James 3:5-8
But once Avery poked the bear, it’s arousal unleashed mayhem on the Avery family. Here on, there are many times procedural fairness was neglected or even despised; ‘might becomes right’ and the little guy gets mauled- particularly when the little guy’s appearance is simple and his job is dealing with rubbish.
The attempted rape and murder of Penny Beernsten
A few months later, on July 29 1985, Penny Beernsten was jogging along Lake Michigan when she came across a man who grabbed and dragged her off, attempting to rape her. He ripped her clothes off, beat her up and left her for dead. When Penny was admitted to hospital, she was interviewed by Judy Dvorak, a Police Officer and friend of Sandy.
When Penny described her assailant to Judy, Judy said ‘that sounds like Stephen Avery’. Judy prepared the report, written by Judy and signed by Penny- unread. Penny’s original description of her attacker didn’t fit the exact description of Stephen, but through the suggestive nature of Police, Penny named Stephen as the perpetrator in a line up.
In this small community, political power plays assert their ugly side as Judy is already prejudiced against Stephen Avery by her friendship with Sandy, her suggestive persuasion to Penny starts an avalanche of hatred towards Avery that is unstoppable.
It’s been my observation of life thus far, that the one who is prepared to play the foulest wins-until God steps in. But it’s a long game that God plays, and sometimes justice doesn’t come until eternity, we need to be patient and secure, knowing that God sees and He is the ultimate Judge.
The Rich Man and Lazarus
Take the story of the rich man and Lazarus. A rich man lived a grand life of luxury whilst Lazarus lived exposed at his gate. Lazarus was covered in sores that dogs licked and was starving for food, he longed to eat the rich man’s left overs. Lazarus eventually died and was carried by angels into heaven. The rich man also died but he went to live in a place of torment. The rich man could see Lazarus in the far distance and was now longing to be comforted by Lazarus, but there was a chasm that could not be crossed between them. A great reversal of fortune occurred and Lazarus is comforted in eternity whilst the rich man lives in anguish forever.
Stephen Goes to Prison
Stephen was ultimately arrested and not allowed visitors or a phone call, another illegal action against Stephen. The case of Stephen against Sandy was still pending so public opinion and police bias was against him.
Meanwhile, Gregory Allen, a known assailant with a long criminal history for sexual crimes was under surveillance for rape in the area, but the officers assigned to do the surveillance were called away at the time of the attempted rape of Penny. The officers told the Manitowoc police, as did 3 women in the District Attorneys office, of Gregory Allen’s propensity for violent sexual crimes. They ignored these leads and continued prosecuting Avery.
During the time of the attempted rape of Penny, there were many witnesses reporting that Stephen was nowhere near the area where Penny was assaulted. Penny’s testimony was so strong in identifying Stephen that it carried the day. Stephen was sentenced to 32 years in prison.
During one appeal in 1995 (10 years later) Stephen’s defence found fingernail scrapings and the DNA evidence suggested that there was another attacker, the system is designed to perpetuate a decision and the appeals were denied.
Dolores Avery, Stephens mother kept visiting Stephen in prison every week, despite icy roads and long distances. She never gave up asking for help from other sources to get justice for Stephen.
Thankfully, there were some supporters of Stephens innocence, and that must have been comforting to know that those closest to him did not believe erroneous statements and lies.
In 2001, the Wisconsin Innocence Project took on the case. DNA matching was now even more accurate, and they matched Gregory Allen with pubic hair from scrapings that was held as evidence. Stephen was proven to be innocent and released after 18 years in prison suffering for a crime he didn’t commit!
This revelation hit the Sheriff and DA’s office like party poppers at a funeral. They weren’t happy- there was evidence in their files that Gregory Allen had been prosecuted for an attack on the same stretch of beach that Penny was assaulted. They could be held accountable for a cover up or gross misconduct. Gregory Allen had sexually assaulted 2 more women during this time.
The defence were expecting criminal charges or strong condemnation to be laid for the Manitowoc police dept, however the Attorney General found the dept NOT GUILTY, which was surprising considering evidence supported the opposite, and a wrong man got convicted for 18 years. Stephen didn’t get any satisfaction so he filed a civil lawsuit. Here ends episode 1.
Will the ‘little guy’ get justice against the powerful legal system? If life is anything to go by, I think not. Take the once famous Bill Crosby, Rolf Harris and Robert Hughes who have recently been accused of sexual crimes against minors. What I find sobering is that during the height of their popularity, and when they committed these crimes, they were seemingly untouchable. It’s only now that they have a lower profile, and maybe not so much power, that they have been exposed.