What we can take away from “Making a Murderer”

I normally don’t jump on TV show bandwagons.  It was years and years after the start of “Friends” or “Seinfeld” before I watched either with any loyalty.  After they ended, I stopped being loyal to anything on TV other than the Crimson Tide’s football team.  But then I flipped over to AMC one day after an NFL game.

Me:  “Oh cool…this show looks like it was shot in Atlanta!  Hey, look!  There’s 2 Peachtree Street–I used to work in that building!  Hey, there’s where I bought my bride’s engagement ring!  There’s a … oh my God, what is that disgusting creature eating?  There’s another one!  Nasty!  What is this garbage?  Look–that cop is waking up in a hospital and is realizing the world has been taken over by the undead.  This show is awful!  I wonder what’ll happen to these people…I should watch…”

And that’s how I started watching “The Walking Dead” in its first season and gave a TV show my loyalty after 10 years off.  Since then, of course, Georgia has become a hotbed of TV and film production and shooting, so the novelty of seeing buildings I recognize is long gone.  So, I’ve kept from adding anything else to my regular TV watching schedule.

That said, several people on Facebook have been talking about “Making a Murderer” lately.  I resisted the urge to see what the fuss was about, like I did when I saw a bunch of people talking about “Lost” or “Mad Men” or “House of Cards” or “Breaking Bad” or whatever.  But then a couple tagged me with specific questions about the police investigation in the show to see what my thoughts were (because, apparently, I’m the only lawyer these people know very well.  I can’t imaging only have 1 lawyer friend.  That sounds awful to me.  Lawyers are awesome.  That’s why I go to Mardi Gras with like 50 of them every year.), even though I’ve never practiced criminal law, and all I know about criminal law I learned in a semester of Criminal Procedure class about 15 years ago, in which the professor–a guy I thought was crazy liberal and paranoid–would rail about how the Constitution protects us from the police and the government, and how important that stuff is if we are to live in a free society.  Now I think he was a genius.

mug shot netflix

So, I turned on Netflix one night and started watching it.  I was appalled.   I only made it through the first two episodes before deciding it was time for bed (a paragon of will power am I, ye who binge watch all night and are worthless the next day at work).  Afraid I wouldn’t make time to watch the rest of it, I googled the story to see how it turned out, and I was even more appalled to learn Mr. Avery gets accused of another crime after being exonerated from the one for which he did nearly 2 decades of time, only to lose that case and still be behind bars today.  I’ve since watched a few more episodes–getting to the part where the defense team sees that the blood in the evidence locker has been tampered with, and I’m pretty sure I will never go back to Wisconsin again (as much fun as I had in Madison and Milwaukee several years ago), though I assume if I continue to watch, I’ll get a better idea about why the jury found Mr. Avery guilty.  I hope to eventually finish it.

But regardless of your (or my) opinion on the guilt of its protagonist, I hope the popularity of this documentary will swing our country’s opinions back toward an appreciation for the Fourth and Fifth Amendments and their cousin, the right to privacy.  While we put more and more of our lives on the internet (yes, I realize the hypocrisy in my typing this) for all to judge, view, and dissect, we think it less and less of a big deal to be free from searches and seizures by the government, or for it NOT to know our every thought and location.  Such knowledge will become more and more tolerated (and even encouraged) as terrorist acts become more commonplace stateside, and our collective desire to feel safe overrides our desire to feel free.  But it shouldn’t.

I hope this documentary helps us realize that ceding rights of individuality and handing more trust to agents of the State is not a wise direction to go.  Our country’s framers knew this quite well, and I hope we never forget it.  I’m glad Netflix took the time and spent the money to create this documentary film, and I look forward to similar offerings in the future.

And for God’s sake:  don’t waive your right to assistance of counsel if brought in for questioning with the police.  Even if you’re innocent.  Especially if you’re innocent!  Watching the interrogation process and how a mentally slow minor was force fed his testimony and confession was one of the most painful sequences I’ve ever watched on TV.  Use your Miranda rights.  Shut up.  Request counsel.

One Comment

  1. Pretty Bride

    Ben Franklin was right. Glad I got to watch this with you, even gladder to hear your insights.

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