Making a Murderer: A Canadian Perspective

Written on behalf of Barrison Law
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WARNING: This blog post contains spoilers.

Around water coolers, on social media, and in the news, it seems that all anyone can talk about in the last few weeks is the new Netflix documentary, Making a Murderer. The true-crime miniseries has caused a sensation by casting doubt on the guilt of Steven Avery and Brendan Dassey for the 2005 murder of Teresa Halbach in Wisconsin.

The series focuses on Avery, who spent 18 years in prison for rape before DNA evidence helped to exonerate him. After his release, Avery began to prepare a multimillion-dollar lawsuit against Manitowoc County, Wisconsin. Only a few weeks after police officers were deposed in the civil suit, Avery was accused of the murder of Teresa Halbach, a photographer who had last been seen visiting Avery’ property. Brendan Dassey, Avery’s teenaged nephew, confessed to police that he was Avery’s co-conspirator in the rape and murder of Halbach. Although Avery maintained his innocence from the beginning claiming that he was framed by law enforcement authorities, both he and Dassey were found guilty of murder and sentenced to life in prison.

The response to the series has been strong. Online petitions seeking pardons for Avery and Dassey have received hundreds of thousands of signatures. In the aftermath of the show, characters featured in the series have come forward saying filmmakers were biased in their portrayal of the facts. Others suggest that the filmmakers deliberately ignored compelling evidence presented at trial pointing to Avery’s guilt. Regardless of whether Avery and Dassey are guilty, it is undeniable that police and prosecutors abused their powers. The series presents a compelling view of the experiences of the accused in the American criminal justice system  Even for skeptical viewers, it’s hard not to feel a stab of empathy at the way Avery, and especially Dassey were treated.

Canadian viewers captivated by the series can now tune in to The Docket, a weekly podcast by Michael Spratt, an Ottawa-based criminal defence lawyer, and Emilie Taman, a prosecutor, who discuss the series in the context of access to justice and the differences between the Canadian and American criminal justice systems. Each podcast discusses one episode of Making a Murderer and it does contain spoilers, so if you haven’t watched the next episode of the show, it’s best not to listen to the corresponding episode of The Docket.

If you have questions about access to justice in Canada, please contact the criminal defence lawyers at Affleck & Barrison online or at 905-404-1947.

For more information, check out our previous blog posts on the differences between the Canadian and American criminal justice systems: