2015’s True Crime Obsession, and “The Making of a Murderer”

Serial, Bowe Bergdahl, who was today arraigned on desertion and misbehavior charges, manages to be more than merely a discredited hero, but a subject whose story is worthy of airing in all its complexity. It's an attitude that a defense attorney is used to adopting, but the public seems to be catching up too. Documentary makers in the Durst case certainly thought that his story deserved to be heard, even while admitting they had eventually abandoned their neutrality when a handwritten note pointed to his guilt (see my blog post, from earlier this year). Netflix’s "Making a Murderer" is the latest in this batch of series that asks us to look at complex cases from the accused’s perspective, and asks the question, as Vox puts it: "If the police really want you to go to jail, even if you haven’t committed a crime, is there anything you can do to stop them?" The subject of "Making a Murderer", Steven Avery is a man who appears to us in two guises: first as an innocent man, whose name was cleared of sexual assault in 2003 by DNA evidence after serving 18 years; second, as a convicted murderer who is now serving a life sentence for a crime he says he was framed for. Mr. Avery claims he was framed because of a $36 million dollar lawsuit against county officials over his previous conviction. His exoneration also became closely associated with the Wisconsin Innocence Project, a local version of the National nonprofit that Sarah Koenig consulted for the original Serial series. As a former prosecutor and now a defense attorney, it's particularly interesting to see how committed journalists can persuade the public to take an interest in the untold stories of those who are accused of serious crimes.