Okay, why don’t we just cut to the chase right at the top? “Making a Murderer” is obviously going to be a 10-week exploration of whether Steven Avery was framed for the murder of Teresa Halbach by the Manitowoc County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO) et al, whether he committed the crime, or whether he was framed by others. Again, it is important to frame (pun not intended) our discussions in concrete terms:
- The murder of Teresa Halbach
- The alleged intentional or unintentional ‘framing’ (the contrivance of false evidence to wrongfully convict) of Steven Avery.
If this is our premise; then we need – in addition to evaluating the evidence against Avery – to define the parameters of the alleged conspiracy.
- Who are the participants in the conspiracy?
- How many participants are there/were there?
- And most importantly; at which moment did the conspiracy begin?
Who and how many participants are involved is important, because as the number of participants increases, the chances of the conspiracy remaining a secret decrease drastically. I learned this in undercover operations. The fewer people who knew the details of the undercover, the smaller the chance of compromise.
If the number of participants is important, then the point at which the conspiracy began is crucial. If a conspiracy existed to frame Avery for the Halbach murder, these are the possible scenarios for, and ‘entry points’ (beginnings) of, the conspiracy which we must evaluate.
Scenario #1: The Manitowoc Sheriff’s Office or personnel murdered (or arranged the murder of) Teresa Halbach so that Steven Avery could be framed for the crime. Entry point: Prior to the murder.
Scenario #2: Neither the Manitowoc Sheriff’s Office nor any of their personnel had anything to do with the murder of Halbach, but opportunistically took advantage of the timely crime to frame Avery and solve a problem.
Ultimately, they staged and planted all evidence in the matter. (This, ironically, is an analog to the situation which resulted in the wrongful conviction of Amanda Knox in Italy in 2009.) Entry point: Sometime after Halbach disappeared, but likely before her vehicle was found by searchers.
Scenario #3: The murder of Teresa Halbach was committed by a person or persons other than Avery or the Manitowoc County Sheriff’s Office or its personnel. That murderer (or murderers) framed Avery themselves. Realizing that Avery did not commit the murder, but seizing the opportunity to ‘ratify’ the actions of the real murder in framing Avery, Manitowoc assisted by planting evidence to frame the person suing them. Entry point: Some time after realizing that Avery was the last person known to see Halbach alive.
(A fourth possibility exists; that someone besides Avery, Manitowoc County or other law enforcement officials murdered Halbach and framed Avery for it. Manitowoc County, Calumet County and all others involved were fooled. This would not be a law enforcement conspiracy, however, it would just be incompetence.)
I mention these theories early on in the series, because in discussing and evaluating possible motive and opportunity for the framing of Avery in all its many facets, some allegations will be consistent with theory #1, others with theory #2, and others with theory #3. However, unless the evidence of a conspiracy completely aligns with one of the three possible scenarios, then a conspiracy is unlikely. A legitimate case of conspiracy to wrongfully convict cannot be made using evidence from columns 1, 2, and 3, when the three are frequently mutually exclusive.
For instance, if you believe that the murder of Teresa Halbach was orchestrated by MCSO and timed to interdict Avery’s lawsuit, then you have to accept theory #1--The police killed her. In plain terms, if she was not killed by county officials, then the timing of her death in relationship to the lawsuit proves nothing.
If you believe #2—that MCSO took advantage of the timely murder, then you have to accept that the department had only days to concoct a fool-proof plan, involve dozens of officers (conspirators) from different agencies (who would know they were committing felonies), implement the plan, and ensure that everybody involved remain silent for a decade.
If you believe #3—That Halbach was killed by someone initially unknown to the Sheriff’s office, and a person other than Avery, then the conspiracy becomes much easier, as half the work is done for you. But the allegations still require that Manitowoc engage in wide-spread and risky evidence-planting.
In the first two episodes, the producers created the appearance of a strong motive for Manitowoc County (as an entity) and Denis Vogel and Thomas Kocourek (as individuals) to have framed Steve Avery for the murder of Teresa Halbach. Indeed, it is likely that any monetary judgement against Vogel or Kocourek would have to be paid by them personally, (as the insurance company for the county was refusing to indemnify the actions if they were deemed illegal.) This is substantial in a case which is potentially worth $36 million. It also raises eyebrows that Avery was arrested for Halbach’s murder the day before former Sheriff Kocourek was due to be deposed.
EVIDENCE AGAINST AVERY
Please understand that as I go over evidence presented, I am not taking a position on anything except alleged evidence and its potential ramifications. I am not making a determination. I have spent most of my investigative time since leaving the FBI in the investigation and exposure of wrongful convictions. If this was my case, I would be days or weeks—at best—from coming to a definitive conclusion.
That said, the evidence which was presented against Steven Avery is compelling.
Regardless of your beliefs about whether Avery was framed or not, nobody engineered his contact with the woman who was murdered.
According to (unverified) statements in the documentary, Halbach had three cars to photograph that day, and Avery’s was the last. After arriving at Avery’s property, Halbach never again used her phone, checked her messages or used her credit/ATM cards. This provides a compelling time of disappearance, and it coincides with the time Avery claims that he was with Halbach.
At the time of Halbach’s disappearance, Avery’s girlfriend/fiancé, Jodi Stachowski, was jailed for Driving Under the Influence (DUI), and he was living alone.
(To be continued....Part 2 of Episode 2 will post on Thursday)