We Need To Talk About Brendan
Ain't nothin' good comin' outta Episode 4 of Making A Murderer.
"Indefensible," Episode 3 of Netflix's Making A Murderer, covers a lot of ground. The yo-yo of pain at the end of which the Avery family dangles shows no sign of stopping, nor does any hope exist of any of this ever making sense. It's hard to tell at this point which player in this drama has received the least amount of justice. Is it Steven Avery? Is it Brendan Dassey? Is it Steven's mom/Brendan's grandmother, who has probably never known a happy day in her life and now must watch as her family gets ground to dust? And, of course, Teresa Halbach? Who did kill her? Will we ever know? At this point, we can merely document the increasing number of unbelievable moments that, when condensed into one episode of this documentary, combine to form one big WTF?!
Does this weasel in human form…not understand the law? How many times was Brendan interviewed without him present? Or is he so convinced that he has no shot against the corrupt Manitowoc system that he attempts not only to throw the match, but to hedge the bet by straight-up colluding with the enemy?
I can think of two equally terrible options to explain his behavior: He either presumes Steven Avery's guilt, thus presuming his own client's guilt, and is trying to get the best win possible for Brendan -- meaning, less than life in prison -- or he somehow KNOWS beyond a shadow of a doubt that they have no chance of winning and is cutting all corners to reach the finish line as quickly as possible. Lord, I just thought of an addendum to the second reason, worse than all others: Public defenders make hardly any money, and even though Kachinsky just lost an election for circuit court judge and could use a high-profile win if he ever wants to run again, he's manipulating the situation to force a plea bargain because the ROI is simply not high enough for him to bother.
Major kudos to the filmmakers for getting the audio of that AP interview where Avery was asked if Brendan was smart. "Not really," Avery says, very casually, even sort of reluctantly -- and it's something you could say about just about any teenage boy, to be honest. He didn't even seem to be attempting to insult the kid, but the media (via Len Kachinsky) turned it around to sound like Steven was "warning" Brendan to stay quiet or else? First of all, how is Steven suddenly Whitey Bulger sending coded messages through the press? And secondly, how would dumb ol' Brendan even be smart enough to pick up on them if he was?
Whatever the case, Kachinsky does move to have Brendan's original coerced statement thrown out, the bare minimum of what he should be doing. Even HE recognizes the smell of bullshit all over it, but…
WTF, Judge Jerome Fox?!
The judge seems to think it's completely fine! "The court finds that the tactic of misleading Brendan Dassey was not improper, because it did not interfere with [his] power to make rational choices." You mean, like, a choice to have his mom or a lawyer present? Or the choice to make NO statement, a choice he repeatedly attempted to assert?
At this point Kachinsky goes to Plan B (Plan A having been the open-and-shut case that would have happened had that confession been thrown out) and decides to skip to the end of the line. Astoundingly, the filmmakers have what looks like news B-roll from the courthouse showing Kachinsky appearing to conspire with the lead investigators via his own investigator:
WTF, Defense Investigator Michael O'Kelly?!
Is there any single person in a position of power on this case that is not corrupt as hell? I cannot even form words about what is happening in the room when O'Kelly preps Brendan for another interview with the county detectives. I sat here shouting obscenities like I was watching a car drift into oncoming traffic. Over and over again, the kid reiterates his original timeline, even on the insane confession form O'Kelly gives him: He came home from school, played PlayStation, hung out, and then went to help his uncle at the "bombfire" where they burned some junk, a not-unusual activity in a junkyard. Bombfire is exactly how I'd describe what happens next, when O'Kelly emotionally tortures him into saying yeah, okay, he did all the stuff they're accusing him of. "Draw a picture of you having sex with her," he tells him. "Draw a picture of how she was tied up to the bed. And make it big, so we can see it." Then he makes Brendan call his mom and tell her he's been lying to her the whole time and that in fact he is a rapist and a murderer. This conversation is the most heartbreaking and confusing thing of all time, so…
On behalf of Barb Janda: WTF?!
When it becomes clear that Kachinsky is now trying to get Brendan to plead guilty, Steven's sister/Brendan's mom Barb Janda gets up the nerve to ask that Brendan be given a new public defender. She seems on the very edge of losing her mind in this crazy maze from which there seems to be no escape. "He's. Not. Helping. My son," she says, and she might as well be saying it in a vacuum for all the good it does her, because Kachinsky blames it all on Steven masterminding some campaign against him, and I SAY AGAIN, WTF, because Judge Fox denies Brenda's motion for new counsel. Later, he finally grants it after finding out Kachinsky "allowed" him to be questioned without an attorney present. In fact, Kachinsky orchestrated it and should be disbarred, but why expect anything like justice?
Assorted remaining WTF?!s
Steven's girlfriend Jodi -- who, though she seems aimless, and yes, the sort of person who has been beaten down by life and by her own demons to the point that she would take up with the Avery crew, appears to be attempting to get herself together -- becomes an all-too-easy target for county law enforcement merely for existing as part of Steven's inner circle. When she's arrested three times in a month for violating both her parole (by drinking) and the no-contact order her parole officer filed prohibiting her to get in touch with Steven (by driving past his transport van in the street), she bails, leaving Steven with pretty much no reason to live.
Meanwhile, the defense calls in an actual expert to look at how the car search was handled, and the guy is so incredulous he cannot even formulate a WTF. None of Steven's fingerprints are found in the car, even though his blood was found there. Only his DNA was found on the key Teresa had been using for years. The car was just there on the lot when, if Steven had intended to hide it, he could have crushed it at any time in the car crusher. It's all so clearly BS.
Also, the media attention to the case(s) is increasing to the point where legal fairness is almost off the table, if it was ever on the table at all (it wasn't). "Right now, murder is hot!" a clearly soulless 48 Hours producer says, delighted. "That's what everyone wants! That's what the competition wants, so we're trying to beat out everyone else for that perfect murder story." Nice.
And, finally: a cliffhanger WTF?!
My head was already spinning hard enough to need a Dramamine, and then, at the last WTFing minute: Because they are actually good attorneys who care about human beings and justice and, like, doing their jobs, Steven's lawyers go hard at the chain of incompetent command, breaking open the circle of ugly history in the Sheriff's department. Come to find, the current Sheriff, Ken Peterson, was the arresting officer in Steven's rape trial way back in 1985. And when Strang and Buting request the evidence files from that case they find that the blood evidence had been recently tampered with -- a syringe was used to draw blood out of a vial that had been in storage for years. Celebration ensues, but…can it last? Talk it out below.