Since taking an interest in the death of Teresa Halbach and who caused it at the tail end of December 2015, I have remained steadfastly convinced that her former boyfriend was the killer. So far as I know, Mr. Hillegas still has not provided an alibi, and so far as I know, no one but I has bothered to ask him for one.
Nevertheless, finding the culprit is secondary, and hopefully not a prerequisite to freeing the men now languishing in prison, Steven Avery and Brendan Dassey, who clearly did not kill Teresa Halbach.
We all know that the redoubtable Kathleen Zellner has taken up this torch, and I suppose that there is every reason to have at least some confidence, given her superb track record, that if anyone is singly able to free these wrongfully imprisoned men, it is she.
My interests are usually quite foreign to the fads and fashions of the day, but I did take an interest in this case — the tableau revealed by the series, Making A Murderer — because it struck a deep chord which was already ripe for the plucking, shall we say, owing to my own dispiriting observation, and deep involvement with the horrifying, gnashing machinery of American justice.
What I didn’t expect was an education in the ways in which a public fixation can seem to take on the properties of a large number of starlings flying together.
There is movement in one direction, say, toward a certain person, be it a George Zipperer or Scott Tadych, and then, given the slightest and most arbitrary stimulus, the direction and pattern is suddenly changed. The mass, if birds be the bodies wherein the idea is encapsulated, shimmers, pulses, invaginates and takes on properties wholly independent from any single bird, all the while observed by the hawks who come mainly to feed.
Or, to use another metaphor from nature, from the perspective of the media, Steven Avery and Brendan Dassey are whale carcasses on the bottom of the ocean floor now picked over by any number of opportunists, Nancy Grace, Ken Kratz, Dan O’Donnell, and many others among them. The more that show up for the banquet, the better for them.
And after awhile of thinking in this vein, and coming to the bracing realization that in the small town of Manitowoc there seems to be no shortage of seemingly ordinary people perfectly capable of acting monstrously given the right circumstances, you’re liable, if you’re anything like me, to be required to confront some disturbing truths about humanity.
All of it sickens me, frankly. Ken Kratz, an intelligent, but otherwise ordinary monster who just happened to have stumbled into the public’s view, might have believed in Avery’s guilt, but there is no way that he believed in Brendan Dassey’s. Even when you go to Manitowoc today, as I did, and ask people on the street, as I did, whether they believe that Avery was guilty, the majority of them say yes. But I don’t think I talked to a single person who believed Dassey was guilty. Yet this man is serving what essentially is a life term. Why would Kratz do this? To become the hero, and to leverage that status for future political gain. And how, in god’s name, was he allowed to control the narrative after Making A Murderer aired? How is it that an unapologetic, philandering, sex-offending maniac got handed the public megaphone? This is the motherfucker who set the whole thing up!
To any clear-thinking human, it is starkly obvious that the rot has set it. What the world witnessed in the Avery/Dassey trial is commonplace in courtrooms around the United States — an embarrassing fact for America that the world is gradually waking up to. And the world is hopefully awakening to a fact even more horrifying: the United States is running an exploitive, racially motivated system of mass incarceration which, in no uncertain terms, amounts to a humanitarian crisis on par with both apartheid and possibly even slavery itself.
It’s depressing to think of how many Americans know the truth about prosecutors judges, prison and jail, and simply hope for the next season of some television show for their own delectation. But righteous men know that their place is in front of the prison gates in places like Waupun, hoisting burning effigies of he wicked men responsible for this disgraceful state of affairs.