Last year, I spent New Year’s Day binge watching “Making A Murderer”, which in case you’ve been living under a rock is a Netflix documentary that detailed the conviction, exoneration, and second conviction of Steven Avery. I then spent the next 12 months asking absolutely everyone I talked to if they had watched it, and pestering them about their position on his conviction. So, I was thrilled when Prometheus publishing sent me an advanced copy of Convicting Avery, a book out in April that examined the flawed legal system of Minnesota that perpetuated Avery’s two bogus convictions.
Just like the rest of the country, I don’t know for sure whether Steven Avery killed Theresa Halbach, but I do know that his attorneys presented enough arguments to the jury to have given them a reasonable doubt that he was the killer. And that reasonable doubt should have resulted in a verdict of not guilty. It didn’t. I think a reader would best enjoy this book after having watched the Netflix documentary. I looked at this as a more in depth companion to the documentary that delved into some of the legal procedures impacting Avery’s trial that might not be understood as well without having watched the legal proceeding unfold on screen.
Written by an attorney, this book discussed the legal procedures behind each piece of evidence that was admitted against Avery. By examining things such as witness identifications, searches, and expert testimony, the author explained how the unjustified conviction happened. One of his propositions that made the most impact on me was his belief that people tend to think that the police and detectives are searching for the truth so they are eager to provide information to assist them find it during interrogations without an attorney present. Cicchini stated that the government employees actually don’t care about the truth because they are too consumed with their conviction rates. In that vein, the author opined that authorities quickly narrow in on a suspect and make the facts fit that person regardless of the suspect’s true innocence.
The author’s writing style was a little academic. Packed with footnotes and quotes, this reminded me of a law review article. The content and the manner in which he outlined his propositions took me right back to my first year of law school when I took Criminal Law. But, to his credit, legal procedures and rules are dense, and he described them in a way that would allow anyone to easily understand the concepts. The way he described some of the laws impacting Avery’s trial really made the legal system appear broken and just bizarre. Regardless of your position on Avery’s guilt, the content would make anyone suspicious of our legal system.
I never saw myself as someone who wanted to defend a criminal, but my passion for the rights afforded to individuals by the Constitutional always made me eager to oppose the government simply to ensure the laws I take for granted are followed. Of all the author’s topics, I particularly liked his discussion of the Fourth Amendment and how the police’s search of Avery’s trailer absolutely violated the black letter of the law governing how, what, and the number of times a warrant can be used to search a person’s home. While I don’t like the idea of a guilty person going free, I like the idea of the government searching my home without any restraints even less.
This book prompted me to engage in yet another round of discussions about Avery and the injustice of the legal system. The author made dull laws fascinating to discuss, and I would recommend it to everyone who thinks they could never be wrongfully accused of a crime and then convicted of it.