Ken Kratz Is The Puppet Master

At closing arguments, during Steven Avery’s trial, Dean Strang, a member of Steven Avery’s defense counsel along with cocounsel Jerry Buting,  argued that the reason police typically plant evidence is not to be malicious, but to ensure that the parties they believe are guilty are convicted.  Ken Kratz, the State’s lead counsel, is quick to counter this line of argument by making the extraordinary claim that, given the overwhelming amount of evidence pointing to Steven Avery’s guilt, a single piece of planted evidence shouldn’t have mattered:

If you buy Mr. Strang’s argument that they were trying to make sure that a guilty person was found guilty then assigning accountability to the murder for Teresa Halbach shouldn’t matter whether or not that key was planted.  In other words can you set that aside and decide, is there enough other evidence or is the key the only thing that points to Mr. Avery?  That key, in the big picture, in the big scheme of things here, means very little.

Planted evidence shouldn’t matter?  In trying to be as generous as possible to Ken Kratz in analyzing why he would have made such a shocking and bizarre statement, one might suppose it was an overreaction to his concern that Steven Avery’s defense, in drawing attention to the unusual circumstances surrounding the discovery of the key, might have raised doubts sufficient enough to sway one or more members of the jury.

It was if Ken Kratz were saying, “Yeah, we’ll give you the key, but what about the bullet, the bones, the fire, the blood, the DNA, and everything else?  Are you, ladies and gentlemen of the jury prepared to believe that a vast conspiracy was undertaken by these fine members of your community, these men you know so well, these beloved members of law enforcement?.”

Manitowoc is a relatively small city of only about 34,000 people.  The members of the jury, if they didn’t know the members of the Manitowoc Sheriff’s office personally, or the members of the Calumet County Sheriff’s personally, must have had an opinion about whether law enforcement in that area was as corrupt of Jerry Buting and Dean Strang were trying to imply.  

Ken Kratz skillfully built the foundation of his case using blocks of logic, and each block was deftly put in place to set up a dichotomy that would force a question whose answer Ken Kratz knew in advance: Between Steven Avery or the members of law enforcement in your town, who is bad?  Is your quaint small town of Manitowoc a cesspool of corruption where cops go around destroying the lives of innocent citizens willy nilly, or are the cops the kind of people who, in their off hours go to church, coach little league, and are good, decent neighbors?   

Ken Kratz, a man who needed to win an election to become the lead DA in Calumet County, Wisconsin, probably knew better than most how the voters in that community—the respectable members of the community who might be called upon to serve on a jury, and the only ones who mattered for his professional purposes— viewed local law enforcement.  He had to have known because it was his job to know, and this is what gave him confidence, one can surmise, before making his bet.  

The insinuations, and the outright accusations of corruption made by the defense against local law enforcement played right into to Ken Kratz’s hands!  The way he made this work was by  forcing the members of the jury to confront the veracity of these allegations and to follow their implications to their logical ends.  Ultimately, these questions were ones that were not entirely separate from how jury members viewed themselves.  They were part of the community under attack, after all, so they were ultimately being forced to consider whether their support for local law enforcement implicated them, however slightly, in the very corruption being alleged.

Jerry Buting and Dean Strang were obviously well aware of the uphill battle they faced in choosing to throw shade on the entire sheriff’s department, but they had to be careful in not being completely condemnatory, knowing that the members of the jury would not find that credible or palatable for that matter, so they did what they could to pull their punches where needed.  First, Dean Strang made it clear that if evidence planting had occurred, it was done in the sincere belief by whoever did it that Steven AVery was guilty.  Secondly, Jerry Buting made it clear that he did not believe that the cops were actually responsible for Teresa Halbach’s death in any way.  

However, if the defense felt the need to dismiss the notion that they were trying to imply that Teresa could have been murdered by cops, then they were tacitly admitting that the possibility had been sufficiently raised to warrant such dismissal in the first place.  And this is where Ken Kratz, preparing for this all along, went in for the kill:

But when you scrape one layer of this manure off of the topsoil, you’ll realize that the cops had to kill her.  Now, are you, as the jury, in order to find Mr. AVery not guilty, willing to say that your cops, that your Manitowoc County sheriff’s deputies, Lieutenant Len, Sergeant Colborn, came across a 25-year-old photographer, killer, mutilated her, burned her bones, all to set up and to frame Mr. Avery?  You’ve gotta be willing to say that.  You’ve gotta make that leap.

The statements made by Mr. Kratz are far more interesting and revelatory than they seem at first glance.  I hope I am effective in pointing out exactly why I feel this way.

For example, how odd for a prosecutor to ask a jury to accept the possibility that key evidence had been planted but then ask them to ignore it!  I don’t think the statement can be completely explained by viewing it as a hail Mary attempt to deflate perhaps the defense’s strongest claim that the crime scene had been tampered with.  I don’t think the statement would have been made by a person who truly believed that no evidence had been planted.  A person with that mindset would have chosen a different way to downplay all of the implications surrounding the discovery of the key in Steven Avery’s bedroom.  What we really have here, is not so much a concession, but a confession.  

Or maybe something else, even.  If Kratz planted evidence, maybe he is proud of his handiwork?  He can’t exactly make a direct request for recognition, but he also doesn’t want it all to be washed away on account of one inconsequential mistake when the rest of planted evidence is flawless.  Maybe what he is really saying is, “Look, you small-minded imbeciles, none of you are smart enough to figure out how brilliant I am and how I’ve fooled all of you, so don’t get hung up on one minor mistake.  Don’t be distracted or blinded by one minor imperfection while looking at the entire masterpiece”

I should also note that Ken Kratz is a lot more careful about making such careless statements these days.  When he goes around the country discussing the case in front of millions of people on shows like Dr. Oz, Dr. Phil, and Dr. Drew (he’s covered all the doctors, I guess), he does not ask viewers to wave away one piece of planted evidence because, well, in light of the MOUNTAIN of evidence, it just matters so very little.  

Instead, he gets out in front of what people would likely find suspicious about the key by addressing it head on.  Never mind that highly trained crime scene technicians had been in Steven Avery’s bedroom for days.  On all seven visits prior to November 8th, 2005, these technicians were there doing something else besides looking for evidence, Kratz now tells viewers of the show he’s been invited on as a guest.  

Why do people not see straight through such obvious bullshit?  I mean, how has Ken Kratz managed to become a living, breathing, walking McGurk Effect?  I could write a book on that subject alone, because it would include chapters on magic, Jim Jones, and neuroscience.  

But what I can say for sure is that Kratz has somehow managed to learn the wiles of a con artist.  He wears nice clothes.  He has a soft lilting voice.  He’s very intelligent.  He seems respectable and mannered.  And he says what he says without equivocation even though what he is saying is sometimes outrageous.  

It might be hard to tell, but Kratz never fails to establish a patronizing and authoritative voice in some way.  It’s not like he’s a raving lunatic.  In fact, a lot of what he says is reasonable.  But all of that is just the fancy bread, with the fancy condiments in order to get people to swallow a load of shit.  

And it works, and he knows it works, and he knows exactly what he can get away with.  Every time I see it happening, and that’s been a lot lately, I get the same sinking feeling I get when I watch one of those nature shows and see the gazelle get too close to the river’s edge for a drink of water.  Before long, the terrible crocodile, submerged, patient, hungry, explodes into existence and closes his vice-like jaws around the delicate snout of the pretty quadruped.  There is no escape at this point as the croc slowly slides back into its silty riparian redout to devour the tender flesh of its prey.

It is with Kratz the very same way whenever he is moving his lips, and if you are out of the habit of thinking you’ll miss it every time.  If you exercise your mental faculties even for a split second, you’ll quickly begin to realize that every now and then something that Kratz says is totally insane and makes no sense whatsoever.  If you’ve been fooled by Kratz, don’t feel bad because so have millions of others including wealthy, degreed and respected tv and radio show hosts who have daily audiences numbering in the millions.

It is actually only when we separate the messenger from the message, so to say, or, put another way, when we take the statement at face value, such as when Kratz asks that jury members should turn a blind eye to planted evidence that the true meaning and import of his words are revealed.  It’s like in the McGurk Effect—the only way to accurately hear the sound of the speaker or the message of the speaker is to close your eyes to that very speaker.  

Without Kratz in the picture, when else would anyone ever be able to convict a person in a case where it was suspected that evidence had been planted by some member of law enforcement?  Any person with any capacity for rational thought would conclude that a crime scene with any planted evidence would mean none of the evidence could be trusted.  of one piece of evidence would make all of the evidence suspect.  Of course that would be the only conclusion any clear thinking person would come to!  The fact that Kratz makes his comment at all indicates what little respect he has for the reasoning powers of others, and what confidence he has in his powers to bamboozle.

There is also a very practical consideration: if the evidence were so plentiful and obvious, and the prosecution backed this up by claiming to have hundreds of pieces of evidence, who would have thought there would have been the need to plant a key?  Wasn’t the RAV4 already on the Avery property with Steven Avery’s blood in it enough?  What about the fact that the Avery property was the last place that Teresa Halbach had been seen?  If all of the other evidence was not planted, it would be very difficult to fathom what must have been going on in the mind of the person who planted the key.

It is not just in the argument Ken Kratz uses to wave away the significance of planted evidence where his carefully assembled build blocks of logic being to crumble.  The crumbling action also happens when he states that to believe that evidence was planted means that one has no choice but to believe that the cops murdered Teresa Halbach.  

Again, we have some a harmful variation of the McGurk effect happening, and in order for our brain to understand what is being done to it, we need to carefully parse the meaning of what Kratz is saying by turning away from the personage of the serpent like figure of Ken Kratz, if need be.  As soon as we do, we suddenly realize that what he is saying makes absolutely no sense.  It might also be more than a little telling that Kratz makes every pretense that he assumes that what he is saying is so self-evident that he shouldn’t have to bother with connecting the dots even though these very dots are very much in need of being connected.  

Why, for example, should a suspicion that evidence was planted mean that we must follow an ineluctable trail of logic, as if there were an algebra problem we were solving, that would lead us to the iron conclusion that the cops must have murdered Teresa Halbach?  Well, what if someone outside of law enforcement planted the evidence?  What if the special prosecutor himself did?  There are endless scenarios that one could imagine in which A) Evidence was planted (even by the cops) and, B) The cops did not murder Teresa.  Only in the mind of a master con artist possessing full self-knowledge of his high level of mastery in his ability to fool others would it ever occur to say something so demonstrably false with any expectation that what he might say would be accepted unquestioningly.

One of the most revealing thing that Ken Kratz says in his closing arguments is this:

Despite Mr. Buting standing up here saying, “Look, folks, we’re not saying that the cops killed Teresa Halbach.  Now what we’re saying is that somebody else skillfully exploited law enforcement bias as if there’s somebody smart enough out there that could do that.

It’s a curious thing that Kratz allows for this possibility as long as someone has the requisite intelligence to pull it off.  Gosh, do you suppose he might be thinking about himself?  I mean, it’s just a matter of having the right amount of smarts and the ability to manipulate, after all.  We have to ask ourselves why would it occur to Kratz to think of it as simply a matter of having the needed smarts?  Why would he make such a comment?  

Even Kratz’s statement about a killer “skillfully exploiting law enforcement bias” is ripe for analysis.  Both Buting and Strang were prohibited from saying anything about an alternative killer, so whatever we able to intuit from Kratz’s comment wasn’t put into his head by either of them.  The only way this comment can be interpreted is: tricked law enforcement into believing that Steven Avery killed Teresa Halbach by planting evidence even though the trickster knew it was someone else.  For a long time, I’d at least given Ken Kratz the benefit of the doubt when it came to whether he believed that Steven Avery killed Teresa Halbach, but I see now that I will have to deeply examine this as well.

The puppet master here is no one else but Ken Kratz.  Ken Kratz is the one who probably planted all of the evidence in this case, and this gave him a tremendous advantage.  He knew that it would too outlandish for anyone to suspect that it was he who planted the evidence, and even if such suspicions were raised, who would believe such a thing without direct proof?  On the other hand, it was only slightly less outlandish to believe that members of law enforcement planted the evidence, or that there was a vast conspiracy afoot.  This made mounting a proper defense for Steven Avery nearly impossible, and I think that Jerry Buting and Dean Strang did the best possible they could have done given their circumstances.  Even today neither man knows the enormity of the evil they were up against, and neither does the rest of society, for that matter.

The actions of Ken Kratz are what really called the integrity of area law enforcement into question.  In fact, had his mad gamble gone the other way, his own actions would have brought the reputation of law enforcement in that area to the very brink of utter ruin and shame.  That’s pretty much the case as it is outside of Manitowoc, and lieutenant James Lenk and Sergeant Andy Colborn have to live with being the object of worldwide hatred to this day.  

The truth is that as far as Ken Kratz is concerned, everyone exists to be outsmarted and manipulated by him.  We’re all just minor pawns in his game.  He no more cares about the hardworking men and women of law enforcement than he cared about the victim’s of domestic violence when he was the chair of Wisconsin’s Crime Victim’s Council.  More than likely, he somehow orchestrated that the discovery of the key found in Avery’s bedroom would be found by Colborn and Lenk in order to insulate himself and his sheriff’s department from any future accusations of evidence tampering.

I realize that the points I make here will be ridiculed and laughed at by almost everyone, and I can already begin to see that I am no longer taken seriously by those who make an attempt to follow developments in this case.  But I know as surely as there are stars up in the sky that I’m right.

One last thing.  There are three words in this comment given by Ken Kratz in his closing statement that probably don’t seem all that telling until you think of them through the lens of Ken Kratz being the planter of evidence in this case.

Now, are you, as the jury, in order to find Mr. AVery not guilty, willing to say that your cops, that your Manitowoc County sheriff’s deputies, Lieutenant Len, Sergeant Colborn, came across a 25-year-old photographer, killer, mutilated her, burned her bones, all to set up and to frame Mr. Avery?

Burned her bones?  It was supposedly her body that they burned, not her bones, per se.  But it is my view that Ken Kratz burned someone’s bones, and I think this is why he makes another slip.




  • If ONE molecule of evidence is planted, then used to convict someone of a crime, the case Must be thrown out. The cop that planted it MUST be investigated and charged if there is evidence. Hearing a sleazefest like Ken Kratz say it’s ok if the cops planted evidence tells you that he is guilty of misconduct. That’s not a stretch either.

    The police cannot be allowed to function like this.EVER.

  • I wonder why s/he called you a bit nuts?

  • Oh, you made some good points here. And I, for one, really appreciate what you do. You are a little bit nuts but you’re a good analytical thinker and I love hearing your thoughts on this case. I’m grateful someone still cares enough to think about it so much. Your analyses have informed my perceptions of this case very much.