BPB on Doubt

BPB — Doubt: From Descartes to Dassey.

Happy 2016 dear readers! I hope that you all enjoyed the festive season. I was lucky enough to venture across the pond and spend a couple of weeks exploring New York City. But, like many of you I imagine, I got a little distracted by Netflix’s 10 part documentary series: Making a Murderer.

If you haven’t watched the show yet, it’s probably worth pausing to watch it now. If you’re anything like me, it will only take a matter of hours to complete. Each closing shot had me like “Time for one more episode?” SO if you haven’t seen it, be warned that you might find some *spoilers* in this post.

Why was the show so incredibly addictive? Why could I not turn off the TV and go and explore the metropolis that was just outside the door? The information about the Avery/Dassey cases is drip fed to you, like in whodunit dramas: I suppose partly because there is so much information (it would be impossible to take in all at once) …mostly to keep you watching.

The argument throughout the documentary, regardless of whether you think Avery is guilty or innocent, is one-sided. Having watched the series, and after having scoured the internet for extra information, I would not commit myself to saying that Steven Avery is innocent. What I am absolutely committed to is that there is reasonable doubt. There is no certainty that Steven Avery murdered Teresa Halbach, with or without the help of Brendan Dassey. On a side note: Brendan’s story is nothing but heart-breaking.

Doubt is a tool used to sniff out certainty — we cannot be certain of something we doubt because that seems to counter all notion of certainty in the first place. Rene Descartes, back in 1641, called every single one of his beliefs into doubt in order to build some impenetrable foundation on which to build all subsequent knowledge. If it could be doubted, it didn’t make the cut. Descartes set his standards pretty high…But surely, if anywhere, doubt has a very significant role to play in a court of law: a place allegedly keen on getting to the truth. For me, and I’m sure for many other watchers, the documentary showed that there was, at the very least, some doubt as to whether or not Avery was guilty — which means that the conviction lacked certainty. The car key, the blood from the test tube, the fact that there was none of Teresa’s blood, Brendan’s DNA was not found in the trailer, Teresa’s DNA was not found in the trailer or garage or on the key, Steven’s calls to Jodi, no marks on the bed…There is reasonable doubt.

Don’t even get me started on the police and officials. I think the documentary went to prove (and successfully highlighted) two things; and these two things made the weird entertainment value of this show mean something:

1. A conviction can tick more boxes than getting to the truth.

2. If you are poor and/or cognitively impaired — you are likely to suffer under the system.

Following my Netflix binge, I sought out more horrible justice mutation stories (as one does). It piqued my interest. Here are some doubt-filled stories and/or real life crime horror tales:

Witches circa 16th/17th Centuries: Innocent women accused of drinking baby blood, burned at the stake with an audience whilst their children were whipped in front of them as they died.

‘Paradise Lost’ — 90’s documentary following the story of three young boys accused of mutilating and killing three children: supposedly as a part of a Satan-worshipping ritual.

The Lizzie Borden Story: Killed father and step-mother with an axe…or something like that. Maybe or maybe not because she was a homosexual.

Radiolab Podcast: ‘Are You Sure?’ — follows three doubt-related stories, the last of which comes from Penny Beerntsen: the victim of the sexual assault for which Steven Avery served 18 years — he didn’t do it. Penny’s story is fascinating — 18 years after wrongly picking Steven from a line up, she felt she’d never be certain of anything again.

‘The Jinx’ — Film series documenting the life and deaths of Robert Durst.

‘Serial’ — Podcast. Season one in particular. Follows the story of Adnan Syed who may or may not have murdered his ex-girlfriend when he was seventeen.

I honestly can’t think of many things that would be worse than being accused (let alone convicted) of some horrendous crime that you didn’t commit. Adnan’s story, as told through the Serial podcast, draws attention to the fragility of reputation. ‘The Adnan I knew could never do something like this…’ While of course it is true that you can never fully know someone, does that mean that your experience counts for nothing? Unless they are some all-deceiving evil genius, which is unlikely, it seems to count for something. They can’t be lucky enough to have caught some real deal lying psychopath every time… For what it’s worth, I don’t think Adnan’s guilty. At the very least, like for Steven, there is reasonable doubt.

We need laws, a judicial system, and people to enforce it…and nothing we come up with will be without flaw. It’s a ‘necessary evil’. The power is out of balance…the ‘Dursts’ go free whilst the ‘Averys’ rot. It’s important that we continue to ask ‘Where is the justice?’

Thoughts, Questions, Comments:

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Originally published at bedpostblonde.tumblr.com. (12/01/2016)