Well written and well researched, these two kick the hornet's nest here and dive right in to take a look at a ten year old case that's recently evoked a quite a stir of sympathy toward convicted murderer Steven Avery, with the airing of the documentary series 'Making a Murderer'.
The case concerns the murder of Teresa Halbach and the recent questions that have arisen about the case stem from the film series. The authors set about to answer those questions decisively, and they deliver.
The filmmakers of the doc concentrate almost solely on police corruption, but leave a lot out, and offer no viable suspects to fill the shoes of the convicted murderers Avery and Dassey, nor the suggestion that there should be any.
One wonders then what could possibly move a half million people to petition for Avery's release. Perhaps the answer is an emotive film series that relies heavily on inciting anger over possible mistakes of police, as well as a tendency to excuse and make sympathetic, both individuals.
The truth of the matter is, the authors establish here that while some mistakes were made in this case and shouldn't have been, none ever rose to the level of establishing either Avery or Dassey weren't involved. Not even remotely.
To the contrary, the evidence was squarely, and always, on Avery. Especially Avery. The assertion was even made by one of the filmmakers that this case indicates the entire US justice system is flawed and needs [to be] overhauled, the remark drawing a vehement rebuttal by author Wilson, who states that an isolated case involving a bad apple or two does not an entire justice system indict, and further says that States still have one of the best justice systems in the world. This reader strongly agrees.
While taking a critical look at the documentary, the authors also take a closer look at all the players, including of course Avery, the convicted nephew Dassey, the relatives, and the authorities.
The authors consider all questions raised, and provide logical feedback to all. Some accusations were dispelled outright. An example of this was the notion that authorities had planted Averys blood DNA because a hole that was likely caused by the needle on a medical syringe had pierced the top of a vial that contains his blood. Turns out that a nurse from the lab had previously testified in a statement to what actually happened regarding this, and the explanation was so benign that it was laughable!
This info, however, was of course left out of the film. The authors are prompted to correctly ask a serious 'why?' Other assertions were similarly exposed for not fairly including pertinent information. Van der Leek pulls the reader in to what really did happen here though, by examining closely Avery's own words, This exercise is intriguing, effective, and most of all fair. He periodically asks the reader if one can rightly 'judge a book by its cover', the meaning being of course can we judge a person by their looks and circumstances? Is it right and fair to do so?
For instance, Avery was a pretty unsavory looking character who was content to live in a junkyard, and should that perhaps tell us something about him that we can rely on? By looking deeper at Avery's own statements, by really studying some of this, this reader arrived at some pretty sober realizations regarding Avery, and it became apparent that one can, in fact, 'judge a book by its cover'.
Avery is every bit the villain required to have perpetrated this crime. He's devious and violent, even threatening to kill those who might blow the whistle on him. There's a chilling example of this in the book but for purposes of not spoiling, it won't be revealed here in this review.
Avery actually committed several crimes that are documented in the book, but weren't included in the film. One of those was extremely serious. After reading this narrative, it's shocking realizing just what was left out of the film.
Perhaps the worst omission concerned information that was available on Brendan Dassey, but never divulged. Yes, it's an accepted fact that Dassey is simple, but as Van der Leek manages to adequately convey, he is not THAT simple. He knows right from wrong and attempts repeatedly to cover and change his earlier confession.
Teresa Halbach died in that old junkyard, her charred remains found not 20 ft from Averys from door. Somebody did that to her, and we the public should probably keep that in mind. Goosechases are fine for fodder and probably paydays, but at the end of the day, this woman lost her life, and is there really a serious question being proposed here as to who did this? Kind of to this point, Van der Leek includes a passage in the book where the filmmakers state that they 'felt the need to emphasize the controversy'. This was stated in answer to criticism of their film.
Another response by this team regarding criticism and also included in the book was this. From thedailybeast.com: Demos and Ricciardi say time constraints made it necessary to focus only on the evidence introduced in court that they deemed to be most crucial to Kratz’s case against Avery. Author Van der Leek remarks "What time restraints?"
He then notes that ten episodes of an hour each on this project were created. He comments further stating "There’s time to pontificate endlessly [Steven on Steven, and Steven’s relatives on Steven] but you’re going to go thin on the most important evidence presented at trial?" That's a really good question.