Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, June 29, 2017



I confess that I only watched the first episode of Netflix' Making a Murderer non-fiction series. I didn't think the documentary was that well done, and had no great interest in watching ten hours of this story: its premise was that Steven Avery, wrongfully convicted of a rape and imprisoned for 18 years, was also wrongfully convicted of the rape-murder of Teresa Halbach subsequent to his release, and that police planted evidence to convict him. I am well aware of how venal human nature can be, and I am certainly aware of corrupt cops, but I found it hard to believe that men who had long-time honorable careers would suddenly risk those careers, as well as jail time, just because Avery filed a multi-million dollar lawsuit -- after all, whatever money judgment he received would have come from the taxpayers, not out of the pockets of those law enforcement officials. It would also mean that the "real" killer would get away with a ghastly crime, and be left free to attack and murder more innocent women. I don't buy it. Yet, apparently the prosecutor in the original rape case knew of Avery's innocence and did nothing to stop his conviction ... Two recent books look at the Teresa Halbach murder and the Netflix documentary about Steven Avery.

AVERY: The Case Against Steven Avery and What Making a Murderer Gets Wrong. Ken Kratz with Peter Wilkinson. Foreword by Nancy Grace. Benbella; 2017.

Ken Krartz, the prosecutor on the case, intelligently explains how the documentary, which can hardly be accused of objectivity, distorted or withheld key facts so that Avery would seem innocent. Kratz, who was disgraced when he foolishly sexted a crime victim, received death threats not for that behavior, but because he supposedly prosecuted an innocent man. Many of these hateful messages, I believe, are generated by criminal types who hate the police and the justice system.

Avery makes a strong case that Steven Avery was guilty as sin, Kratz may make excuses for his reprehensible behavior -- the old sexual addiction ploy -- but that doesn't mean his case against Avery isn't solid. Avery built up a lot of hate over those 18 years in jail, and although he only succeeded in screwing up his own life even more, he took out his hatred on a perfectly innocent woman. With all the hoopla over the documentary, it's sad that the victim, Teresa Halbach, has been almost forgotten.

Verdict: The other side of the story. ***.

INDEFENSIBLE: The Missing Truth About Steven Avery, Tersa Halbach, and Making a Murderer. Michael Griesbach. Kensington; 2016.

Michael Griesbach is a prosecutor, but he did not work on the Steven Avery murder trial. He found it hard to believe that police officers he greatly respected would have framed Avery for murder, but he was troubled by much of what he saw in Making a Murderer -- until he dug deeper and discovered how the documentary withheld information and used editing tricks to support their theory that Avery was innocent. Grisbach is unsparing in his condemnation of the men who allowed Avery to be (in this case) wrongly convicted of the original rape charge, but he intelligently and astutely makes the case for Avery's murder of Teresa Halbach. Griesbach allows that there might have been mistakes made, such as in the interrogation of Avery's nephew, but point by point he exposes Making a Murderer's inaccuracies (to put it mildly) and the fact that the documentary leaves out much information that would point towards Avery's obvious guilt. Indefensible is an eye-opener.

Verdict: Possibly the final word on Steven Avery. ***1/2.

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