Of not understanding the difference between acquittal and innocence.
I’ve had occasion to read Harsanyi from time to time, and I’ve never been particularly impressed with his rhetorical skills, but also never been particularly annoyed by him until now.
Frankly, that article is almost complete garbage, from start to finish, but I don’t feel the need to dispute all of it. I’ll just hit some of the worst bits to illustrate my point. Harsanyi in italics:
“I was convinced of many things watching the 10-part series: I was convinced the criminal justice system and Manitowoc County were likely corrupt, and that many people in that office wanted to see Avery end up back in jail.”
” I was convinced that I was being manipulated by directors Laura Ricciardi and Moira Demos (more on this later). I was definitely convinced that Avery was guilty of the murder. And, believe it or not, a viewer could believe all those things simultaneously.”
What you could not believe, unless you are an idiot or straining very hard to think like one, is that Steven Avery got a fair trial. That corrupt Manitowoc Sheriff’s department was deeply involved in the so-called investigation of Avery’s premises, despite the public declarations that they would avoid conflict of interest by handing off the investigation to another county. That fact alone, even without at least two of the Manitowoc “investigating” officers being busted lying under oath, is enough to raise reasonable doubt about every bit of evidence that they
“Parts of Halbach’s body were found burned in Avery’s fire pit.”
Grammatically incorrect, or an unjustified assumption? Parts of Halbach’s burned body [note the difference] were found in the fire pit. And in a burn barrel a hundred yards away. And the largest single part was found in a nearby quarry, not on Avery’s property at all. The burned parts were handled so poorly that no scientific conclusion could actually be drawn as to where the burning took place.
“Evidence of Avery’s involvement was found inside his home.”
Uh, sure, punkin’. You know what wasn’t found? Any evidence whatsoever that Halbach, who was according to the state’s case bound to a bed, raped repeatedly, and then stabbed and cut repeatedly, and then dragged out while still alive, was ever in that home. What was the ‘evidence’ that Avery was involved? Harsanyi doesn’t specify, but it’s easy enough to find out: Some papers, and the magic key. It’s magic, because it didn’t turn up until the 5th search of the same small mobile home, and not until the two Manitowoc officers who had the most to lose [in impending litigation over their railroading Avery for a rape he did not commit] happened to be the ones searching. That key is even more magical because despite Ms. Halbach handling it on a daily basis for years, none of her DNA seems to have ever clung to it, but Avery’s supposedly did.
“There is DNA evidence tying the bullet found in the Avery garage to Halbach.”
Actually, there isn’t. The test that was run for this particular DNA sample was invalidated by the contamination of the control sample. That’s the way forensic science works, or it’s not science. The thing is, the tech had used up all of the material in the single test, so she just declared it good, because the state was simply desperate for some actual evidence that Halbach had been killed on Avery’s property. That the bullet was tied to Avery’s gun is of no consequence, as it was found in his garage. This is the same hoarder-ishly cluttered garage where the state alleged Halbach had been butchered, where no other trace of her blood or any other of her DNA was ever found, despite the concrete floor being jack-hammered up so they could could search for blood in the cracks. They did find blood in the cracks, by the way…but only Avery’s.
“Police found her car, with blood on it and in it, left on the Avery family’s lot.”
No, they didn’t. The car was found, on a property with 4000+ vehicles, by a civilian, a relative of the deceased, within a few minutes of beginning to search. The car may have stood out a little, as it was probably the only vehicle on the lot with brush and pallets leaned against it, in a simulation of it being “hidden.” Or, the searcher may have been given a hint as to where to look, by the young man who made sure that she had a camera before sending her to search there. That young man was Halbach’s ex-boyfriend, who also happened to be involved with the hacking of Ms. Halbach’s voicemail password and the apparent deletion of some of the messages.
Harsanyi also pretends to believe that it would be somehow difficult for the police to plant DNA from Avery’s sweat on the keys and Halbach’s car. This is ridiculous, on its face. These very motivated officers, who were, again, supposed to not be involved in the investigation at all, were in fact repeatedly in and out of Avery’s house over and over for weeks, while he sat in jail, denied bail at any price. It is no stretch at all to suppose that a glove, or any bit of dirty laundry, could be used to transfer such DNA to the keys and the car. Harsanyi also seems to think it would have made some form of sense for Avery to have transported Halbach’s body, or some parts thereof, around in her car, between his house and 20-feet-distant garage, or the further 20 feet to his burn pit. This despite no one seeing the car anywhere near his house between the time Halbach was there alive, and when it suddenly turned up in the junkyard. Intact, rather than run through the easily available crusher. Yes, Avery, the absolutely brilliant crime-scene cleaner [despite an IQ of 70] who was supposedly able to rape, stab, and butcher a woman in at least two locations without the slightest trace of blood left behind [nor any sign of a clean-up]…was also such an incompetent, that he smeared his own blood all over Halbach’s car, and also spread hers around the cargo area.
You might believe that. If you really want to, really bad.
Finally, in a footnote, Harsanyi addresses Avery’s supposed accomplice, and nephew, Brendan Dassey’s recanted confession.
“*For me the matter of Dassey’s confession was the most problematic part of the case. The police interviews with him were almost unwatchable at times. The detectives’ questioning of Dassey (and describing what they did as “questioning” is far too charitable) without an attorney or family member present, despite the kid’s obviously low IQ, was abuse. Kratz’s press conference misrepresenting the tenor and outcome of that confession was nothing more than a lie. Yet, it needs to be pointed out that Dassey’s confession was far more specific than his other stories and comported with evidence that turned up.”
The one time, including by what was supposed to be a member of his own defense team, that Dassey was questioned without being alternatively badgered and cajoled into saying exactly what his inquisitors wanted to hear was on the stand at his own trial. He then fully recanted the bullshit ‘confession’ that Harsanyi concedes he was abused into making. The glaringly obvious reason that this ‘confession’ [consistently inconsistent, between interrogations] “comported” to the evidence, is that’s what the detectives wanted to hear. So they abused a mentally impaired child into saying it, and trotted him off to prison for what will more than likely be his entire adult life, to satisfy their egos and protect their colleagues from their liability for imprisoning a man they knew was not guilty.
Steven Avery may indeed somehow be guilty of Theresa Halbach’s murder. He’s not a smart man, and he’s probably not a particularly good man. He certainly wasn’t a good man when he was locked up for a rape that another man, the one guilty of it, had already confessed to committing. He does, though, have a record of honestly confessing his own bad acts, and resolutely denying false accusations. He did probably twice as much time for that false accusation of rape as he would have if he’d ‘admitted’ it to the parole board. There is plenty of reasonable doubt in the Halbach murder, though, not because Avery resolutely denies committing it, but because the state’s case is garbage, like Harsanyi’s article.