Friday, January 01, 2016

Making a Murderer

At some point, we had planned a trip to Michigan. Unfortunately, on days that were supposed to be travel days for us, a winter storm ravaged the region where we live and where we were going.  There was a "travel not recommended" statement from NOAA, and despite how much I wanted to go and how well planned out the trip was (I am not a good planner of traveling - I do not understand maps - but damn it, this one was well done!), we bailed.  No trip.

On one of those supposed to be travel days, as the sleet hit the side of our apartment building, causing Zelda to sit at the window and meow pitifully in what I can only imagine was a plea for us to stop the madness out there, we sat on the couch and watched all ten hours of Making a Murderer on Netflix.  If you are one of the dozen people left in the United States who hasn't heard of this documentary series, here's the trailer. I mean, we did move from the couch occasionally.  We cooked dinner, we refilled our water glasses, and we tried to comfort the very freaked out cat.

As the ice layered on top of the snow which layered on top of some more ice, we stayed in our cozy apartment, and watched and watched and watched. It's addictive.

Now I watched it because I want something to replace Serial season one (season two is not doing it for me, but I reserve the right to change my mind after it's over) and we don't have access to HBO, so I still haven't been able to watch The Jinx.

And it's brilliant. I won't get into the details of the case(s) since, if you haven't seen it, you'll have no idea what I'm talking about, but I will say that it is a scathing indictment of the criminal justice system, perhaps even more so than Serial was. I understand that the filmmakers have a certain point of view they are attempting to get across and many people claim that makes it biased, but I think one of the larger points of the series is that this man (and a boy-child - more on that later) was tried in the court of public opinion and had no way to get a fair trial, so this is a response to all the other media surrounding this case.

It's also telling the story of a sixteen-year-old boy with below average intelligence being abused by the system that should be doing its very best to protect him. It's the story of small town America (interestingly enough, small town Wisconsin) and the literal trials of a family perceived as white trash and treated as such.

Now, don't get me wrong. The main "protagonist," if that's what we want to call him, is not a good dude. He SET A CAT ON FIRE.  But that doesn't mean that he doesn't have the right to a fair trial.  It doesn't mean that the presumption of innocence goes away. It doesn't mean that small town cops have the right to tamper with evidence.

It's terrifying to think that this could happen to you. I'm from a small town. My family doesn't have the best reputation. I was occasionally harassed by cops who would follow me on the road in the middle of the night until I turned into my driveway. I was "detained" once when I was babysitting because the kid wouldn't stop screaming.  I left that town and got the fuck away from people who judged me harshly because of my father's name, but that's only because I had some resources (namely, my brain which I lucked into and did nothing to deserve, although I sure as hell developed it as much as I could) and if we're honest, that's a resource that this family did not have in abundance.

It's also terrifying to think about the murder victim in this case. It's not at all clear what happened to her. I tend to think that her murderer is still out there. If I were her family, I'd be pissed that all this was getting dredged up again (just like Hae Min Lee's family are rumored to be upset about Serial) and used as entertainment, but I'd be even more upset that the crime was not really solved. Although, in this case, it seems like the family actually does believe the crime has been solved, so maybe they aren't as angsty as I would be over the whole thing.


Watch it. It's worth it.

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