While the first half of Making a Murderer examines the ways in which cops can betray someone, episodes 5 and 6 largely concern themselves with how, via the justice system, a person could gain the upper hand.
Using hours of gripping courtroom scenes, the harrowing second act of Netflix’s new docu-series shows Steven Avery and his attorneys attempting to dismantle the larger power systems that are hellbent on proving Avery’s guilt.
After the haunting confession that was the centerpiece of eps. 3 and 4, the courtroom scenes in 5 and 6 come as a relief. It’s short-lived, though, as much of these episodes is focused on macabre details like bloodstains and burned bits of human bone fragments. The state uses these images for shock value, drawing the jury’s attention to broken body parts to gain sympathy and paint Avery as a monster.
The simplification shown by the state at the beginning of ep. 5 is just one example of the tunnel vision that everyone in this series, from law enforcement to the public, seems to have. As Avery’s attorneys explain in their opening statement, this inherent bias deprived Avery of his basic liberties from as far back as his first arrest. Avery was guilty by default.
To demonstrate this prejudice, Avery’s lawyers work to disprove the state’s evidence and ultimately establish that the police framed him. It works. By ep. 5, the state’s case looks pretty nebulous. It seems as though the cops were negligent by not following up on more obvious leads, and it’s very possible that evidence even was planted.
In ep. 6, Avery’s attorneys question forensic experts about the DNA evidence, and several more holes in the state’s case emerge. Until Feb. 28, 2006, no physical evidence had even been found on the Avery property. What’s more, the DNA testing performed on the single bullet that eventually surfaced at the beginning of March 2006 looks to be faulty. Did Teresa Halbach’s DNA appear because it just happened to be sitting in a test tube and contaminated the bullet? Maybe. And why was no blood from Halbach’s shooting found in the garage, carpet, or bed? No one can say for sure.
The only certainty you have at this point in the series is that Teresa Halbach was murdered and her body burned. When Avery says, over the phone, “Something ain’t right. That’s all I know,” you have to agree.
By the middle of this series, you want to trust Avery — and you feel like you can — but it’s hard to know when the show will force you to switch sides. So how do you feel about the case after the end of ep. 6? What was Lt. Lenk’s role? Was the forensic testing fair? What about the location of the bones? And the most glaring question: Was Avery framed?
Share your thoughts below. Got questions that need clarification? Now’s your chance to ask them. For the next two weeks, this Making a Murderer discussion club will break down each episode and provide a space for you to debate the show and the case. Catch the series on Netflix or get a preview by watching the first episode and the trailer.
Nandita Raghuram is a Senior Writer at Studio@Gawker. She tweets here.