Source: Entertainment Weekly
“This time we won’t leave no stone unturned,” says “Making a Murderer’s” Steven Avery in Part 2 of the hit Netflix documentary series. He’s talking about the post-conviction efforts of his lawyer, but it’s also an apt description of the ten new episodes which premiered Friday.
Filmmakers Laura Ricciardi and Moira Demos have spent the last three years chronicling the efforts of Avery and his nephew Brendan Dassey — who were convicted in 2007 of the rape and murder of Teresa Halbach, a 25-year-old photographer, in Wisconsin — to clear their names. The result is a painstaking, sometimes excruciating tale of forensic science, politics, the bond of family, and human fallibility.
Part 2 of “Murderer” begins with a sort of “previously on” recap, as archival news footage traces the documentary from unexpected phenomenon (“It’s all anybody’s talking about!” says Matt Lauer in an unfortunate Today show clip) to the predictable backlash, as critics — including former Calumet County District Attorney Ken Kratz, who prosecuted Avery and Dassey — blast the series for leaving out key evidence discussed at the trial.
Flash forward to 2016, when two very different legal teams are working to prove that someone else is responsible for Halbach’s death.
In Avery’s corner is Kathleen Zellner, a well-known Illinois lawyer who has 19 overturned convictions to her name. Blunt and formidable, with a penchant for self-promotion and statement jewelry, Zellner is a captivating — and sure to be polarizing — figure. “This… is a case of gross, extreme, egregious prosecutorial misconduct,” she says, fixing her steely gaze on the camera.
Much of Part 2 hangs on Zellner’s dogged attempts to dismantle the state’s case against Avery, which entails meticulously evaluating the evidence collected — or, as she asserts, planted — at the crime scene back in 2005.
If Part 1 of “Murderer” inspired thousands of amateur sleuths looking to expose alleged evidence tampering and corruption in the Manitowoc County Sheriff’s Department, Part 2 doubles down on CSI-style wonkery, spending an extensive amount of time on blood-spatter recreations, microscopic images of bullet fragments, partial nanograms of DNA, and so on.
The filmmakers balance the scientific minutiae of Avery’s defense with the more human-interest narrative of Dassey, the intellectually disabled young man whose case features no forensic evidence. Serving as the passionate Mulder to Zellner’s just-the-facts Scully is Laura Nirider, the attorney working to prove that Dassey’s confession — which the then-16-year-old offered piecemeal after a laborious four hours of questioning, with no lawyer or guardian present — was coerced.
Beneath Nirider’s fresh-faced appearance and dimpled smile lurks a fierce legal warrior; she’s also the co-director at the Center on Wrongful Convictions of Youth at Northwestern Pritzker School of Law. While Zellner confronts every victory and setback with the same stone-faced determination, Nirider and her partner, Steve Drizin, cannot hide their joy or heartbreak as Dassey’s case inches its way through federal court.
This head-vs.-heart contrast between the lawyers is striking and unexpectedly moving, even when the judicial battles get bogged down in legal esoterica. (Get ready to hear a lot about Brady violations, Denny evidence, and en banc reviews.)
Read the story at Entertainment Weekly.
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