CBS4 reporter shares experience covering Steven Avery’s trial from ‘Making a Murderer’ on Netflix


Steven Avery/file photo

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (Jan 6, 2015) — It’s the latest hit on Netflix.  “Making A Murderer” has brought the story of Steven Avery’s 2007 murder trial into the national spotlight.

In 2003, Steven Avery got out of prison, exonerated after being imprisoned 18 years for a rape DNA proved he didn’t commit.

Two years later, Avery and his nephew Brendan Dassey were accused of killing local photographer Teresa Halbach on the Avery property.

CBS4’s Jesse Wells spent two years covering the case, while working in the Green Bay market. He also covered every minute of the criminal trials against Avery and his nephew.

Below he shares his personal thoughts on the trials and the controversial series.

Painting a picture of a corrupt Manitowoc Sheriff’s Department willing to plant evidence in a murder case, “Making A Murderer” is a one-sided look at flaws in the nation’s legal system.

Steven Avery always maintained law enforcement set him up in order to get out of a lawsuit and the documentary makes a convincing case, yet that didn’t match my personal experience working the trial in Wisconsin.

The filmmakers got incredible behind-the-scene access to the defense and the Avery family. They were not provided the same access to the prosecution or the victim’s family.

Whether intentional or not, the access the filmmakers had to the defense clearly skewed their telling of events.

The filmmakers did not omit any “smoking gun” evidence, but they did leave out several pieces of evidence that taken together clearly paint Steven Avery in an unflattering light.

From Avery’s apparent fondness for the victim, to his sweat under the hood latch of the victim’s car, his gun linked to the murder and bleach on Brendan Dassey’s jeans, there was a lot of evidence that didn’t fit the frame-up narrative and those facts were not disclosed in the series.

Dassey told his mom he got bleach on his jeans helped Steven clean the garage around the time of the murder.

Avery repeatedly requested the victim Teresa Halbach specifically come to his property to take pictures of cars.

On one visit he opened the door wearing only a towel and Halbach complained to her boss that Avery had been inappropriate.

The day of the murder Avery tried to hide his identity using *67 on his phone when calling Halbach.

Even if the blood was planted in the car as the defense claimed, it would have been virtually impossible for officers to know how to plant Avery’s sweat under the hood latch of her car.

My coworkers and I camped out for months in the courthouse logging hundreds of hours of trial testimony. Unlike Indiana, Wisconsin allows cameras in courtrooms and the case was a daily headline.

Dassey, a mentally challenged teen and the nephew of Avery, eventually confessed to the crime. The prosecutor’s reciting of that confession, which was broadcast live statewide, clearly damaged the suspect’s ability to get a fair trial.

Dassey later claimed he was coerced and the interrogation methods are highly questionable.

As one of a few dozen reporters who covered the Avery and Dassey trials, I’m only in the Netflix series for a few sporadic moments, but after Avery’s verdict nine years ago, there was no public outcry.

Most people in Wisconsin who repeatedly heard his claims of a frame-up still believed that justice was served. The filmmakers clearly lead people to believe Avery is the victim of a setup. I personally don’t agree, but I do encourage everyone to do their homework.

You can petition the president to pardon the suspects, but I encourage everyone to do independent research to get all the facts, instead of basing your opinion solely on the documentary series.


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