**NOTE: this post contains spoilers. If you haven't watched the series yet or don’t already know the outcome – even though it’s currently all over the media – don’t read this.
If you haven't heard yet, Netflix debuted its latest series “Making a Murderer” in mid-December. This 10 part documentary series follows the investigation, trial and conviction of Steven Avery of Manitowoc County, Wisconsin for the 2005 rape and murder of 25-year old Teresa Halbach, just two years after he was exonerated of sexual assault after serving an 18 year sentence. There was also the small detail of the $36M lawsuit he had filed in 2003 against the same detectives who then picked him up for this murder.
Needless to say, Avery continues to proclaim his innocence since being convicted and imprisoned with no chance of parole in 2007.
Heavy, right? Even more so since you binge watched it like a maniac in less than 2 days. Now you can’t get it out of your head. You are obsessed. You had a similar reaction after listening to Serial, the 2014 podcast that told the story of Adnan Sayed, who many believe was also wrongly convicted of murder in 1999 -- and who is also still in prison.
What do you do about it? You feel all this shit, yet there's not much you can really do. Well, the first step is to frame and identify what you are feeling. You won't get over it, but you will learn to live with it. Here are the five emotions you'll experience after finishing "Making a Murderer:"
Shock: First of all, you can’t believe Netflix did this to you. You naively thought the story would come full circle. You calmly waited all the way to the 10th episode for the "Hail Mary" piece of evidence that would save the day and it never came. This shit really happened! And he's in prison for the rest of his life! Outrageous!
Grief: You cry. A lot. Partly because you've sequestered yourself alone for two days with only these strange hillbillies and talk of rape and murder surrounding you. Partly for the injustice of it all. You are exhausted, frustrated and confused. You cry for all the Steven Averys and Adnan Sayeds in the world. You cry that you can't do anything to help or make it better. You feel helpless and depressed.
Anger: Now you're pissed off. The State of Wisconsin not only put the Avery and Halbach families through all this bullshit, they've put you through it as well. How can the United States of America have this fucked up of a criminal justice system? You are angry at the cops for abusing their authority and manipulating the truth. You are angry for the prosecutors and judges and sheriffs who use their fear of not getting re-elected and being held accountable to manipulate the law and let innocent people suffer. You are angry at the jury for falling for circumstantial evidence and not standing their ground. You are angry at the media for airing inflammatory information that tainted the jury. You are angry that people like Steven -- poor, uneducated, underrepresented -- are at a disadvantage from the beginning. (Anger is a big one here.)
Denial: The anger wears off a little when you realize: you must have been misled. This guy must be guilty. There's no way this could really happen, right? You start to read more about the case. You read the article about the prosecutor who says the filmmakers didn't show all the evidence (read here). OK phew, we were definitely misled for entertainment's sake. The criminal justice system couldn't possibly fail that immensely. You feel a bit of relief, even though deep down you know this is all too plausible and that it happens all the time.
Motivation: This is when you start thinking about what you can do. You? You're a nobody! Sure, but you still want to make a difference. You have to shake off the funk and do something other than feeling sad and mad. What if this happened to someone you loved? Or to you? This is when you learn everything you can about the case; you educate yourself on evidence and false confessions and wrongful eyewitness testimony so you know what to look out for. You feel the healing happen and you start to put this all behind you. But then the next thing you know "Making a Murderer" has hit the news...big time. This makes it harder to move on. So you read more and learn more and resolve to do the following:
- Read Worse than the Devil written in 2013 by one of Avery's rock star defense attorneys, Dean Strang (buy here or here). This book will make you think about bias, assumptions and racism in our criminal justice system.
- Educate yourself. Know what’s going on in the world. Follow criminal cases in your community. Know who your elected officials are.
- You could sign that petition that's going around for Steven Avery on Change.org here; however, there's no precedent that a state case can receive a federal pardon. It's just not done. Avery's best chance is to find new evidence and win an appeal. Read more from CNN here.
- If you are ever on a jury, take it seriously. Keep an open mind. Don't be bullied into a decision. Recognize the stress that goes along with the process but expect it and deal with it (read more here). Don't trust one side or another just based on badges, suits or titles. Everyone has an agenda. Also keep in mind that no evidence is infallible. Eyewitness testimony, false confessions and improper forensics are the greatest contributing factors to wrongful convictions (read more here).
- Don't believe everything you see on the news or read in the paper or hear from your friends. There is always another side to the story.
- If you are ever accused of a crime you didn’t commit, don’t talk to anyone except your attorney. Click here for a handy guide from Wiki-How about what to do. Hey, you can never be too prepared, right?