The 5 Most Compelling Pieces of Evidence from 'Making a Murderer' Special on Steven Avery
Because the world won't rest until it gets some definitive answers: On Saturday night, Investigation Discovery's hourlong Steven Avery: Innocent or Guilty attempted to deliver them.
Dateline NBC's Keith Morrison aimed to settle the matter of Teresa Halbach's murder once and for all by taking a look at the evidence left out of Making a Murderer. That's proved a point of contention for the armchair detectives who believe filmmakers Moira Demos and Lauren Ricciardi purposefully ignored incriminating details with an eye to proving Avery's innocence.
"It would have been impossible for us to include all of the evidence that the state admitted," Ricciardi told Morrison. "We chose all of what the state itself was claiming to be its most compelling evidence. We feel did a very thorough and fair job."
Over the course of an hour, Morrison questioned special prosecutor and defamed attorney Ken Kratz; heartthrob-slash-defense-attorney Jerry Buting; and the true crime sensation's creators. None of them offered a breakthrough radical enough to close the case for good, but they did raise a few points that furthered, contradicted and complicated existing arguments.
Here are the five most compelling and ambivalence-deepening pieces of evidence from Steven Avery: Innocent or Guilty.
The vial of blood
Perhaps no moment in Making a Murderer looks as bad for the prosecution as the moment when defense attorney Dean Strang finds a leftover vial of Avery's blood in the Manitowoc court clerk's office. The vial had been stored in a styrofoam container on which the evidence seals had been cut, suggesting that someone had tampered with the sample and introducing the theory that law enforcement planted Avery's blood in Halbach's car.
But as Kratz explains in Steven Avery: Innocent or Guilty, puncturing a hole in the stopper would have been standard procedure for taking a blood sample. "The blood gets in there [the test tube] by putting a hole in it [the cap]," he said. "There was a nurse that was interviewed that said, 'I'm the one that put the hole in there.'" That nurse was the late Marlene Kraitz, who wasn't called to testify because the defense hadn't made a strong enough case for the vial of blood.
Making a Murderer presents the hole as nearly incontrovertible evidence of foul play, yet the insertion hole allegedly wasn't what most interested the defense about the vial. As Buting said in the special, "If you look carefully... there is blood in between the stopper and the glass, which you could only get if the stopper's taken out. That looked suspicious."
The kill site
In a related evidence vein, investigators found both Avery's and Halbach's blood inside her car. The victim's blood was not found, however, inside her alleged assailant's trailer or garage, where Avery's nephew and possible accomplice, Brendan Dassey, said the crime took place. In Steven Avery: Innocent or Guilty, Kratz offered his thoughts: Avery used Halbach's Toyota RAV4 to bring her body to the burn site, a theory Dassey reportedly corroborated. He said that they'd thrown Halbach's body in the back of her car, planning to throw it in a nearby pond, but were scared the pond had too little water.
In the Netflix documentary, the defense argued it would have been nearly impossible for the accused to have scoured every trace of Halbach's blood from the premises. And if Halbach was bleeding in the car, she would have been bleeding at the original kill site. That opens up a few new questions: Where was she killed, if not in Avery's home? And why did bullets with her DNA on them turn up in Avery's garage months after the investigation began?
The DNA evidence
Blood wasn't the only genetic trace of Avery's that investigators found on Halbach's vehicle. In a December interview with Maxim, Kratz said that police found the suspect's sweat "from his sweaty hands" under the car's hood. In the special, he adds skin cells to that score.
Buting took up the rebuttal, pointing out that Avery's fingerprints weren't found anywhere on the vehicle and asking how Avery's skin could make it under the hood, onto its latch without his fingerprints also showing up. The absence of fingerprints suggests that he was wearing gloves, but those would have prevented him from leaving behind his sweaty hand skin and, as the defense mentioned in Making a Murderer, his blood — the only cut on Avery's body when he was arrested was reportedly on his finger.
The camera and the phone
What's less difficult to unpack is the presence of Halbach's personal possessions — her camera and her phone — in a burn barrel, one of three spots where law enforcement found her charred remains. Furthermore, witnesses watched Avery deposit her belongings in the barrel. "Two people saw him putting that stuff in there," Kratz told Maxim. "This isn't contested."
In the Discovery special, we learn that the barrel and the fire pit where Avery allegedly disposed of Halbach's body are some 20 feet away from his front door. Given the short distance, it seems unlikely that someone could have gotten onto the property unseen and planted her bones there.
The pre-existing relationship
As has been established, Halbach and Avery knew one another better than Making a Murderer lets on. Halbach had photographed Avery's Auto Trader sales before her Oct. 31 visit to the compound, and on the day in question, he specifically asked for her.
According to Kratz, Avery "creeped out" Halbach: A few weeks earlier, he'd opened the door for her while wearing nothing but a towel. She had formally requested that her boss not send her back there, which is why, Kratz said, Avery left his sister's information when he asked for her. He knew she wouldn't come if she thought she'd be seeing him.
In the Discovery special, we learn that Avery called Halbach's cellphone three times on the day of her disappearance. He made the first two around 2:30 p.m. and used *67 to block his number both times. He made the third call about two hours later. Because the final call came in after when Halbach was believed to have been dead, the prosecution alleged that Avery was attempting to set up an alibi for himself.