Is Kathleen Zellner doubting herself? If so, maybe she’s changing because Wisconsin has suddenly arrived in winter, and she’s started wearing stately hats. In episode 5, Zellner was impervious, convinced that she would ultimately win. Now, she’s less so. The episode opens with her concerns about Steven in prison. The longer he’s in prison, the more likely he is to give up on Zellner. He’s going to run out of air, Zellner says. It doesn’t help that, at this point, she recovers six pieces of evidence, none of which are particularly useful. Then, later in the episode, Brendan’s case arrives at the U.S. Seventh Circuit, crystalizing both cases. The reality is, the Averys and the Dasseys have very little legal ground.
As new suspects come and go, Making a Murderer had to address the other side of things eventually. The show has no access to Teresa Halbach’s family, so it can’t present the Halbach side of the story. This episode tries to do some devil’s advocate work, in part by playing the audio from Brendan’s trial. The three judges assigned to Brendan’s case are pretty much resoundingly against his appeal. They have a point; Brendan confessed to a grisly crime after a three hour interview, which, in terms of law enforcement, isn’t that long. Some of the details didn’t come “from the media,” the judges point out. This must mean that he came up with them himself. (That’s not 100% certain, but that’s what’s believed.) This is the first point in the case that Laura Nirider seems nervous. During the trial, her voice shakes. She answers some questions by saying she doesn’t know. She insists that Brendan has a disability, but, when questioned about the disability, says that his I.Q. isn’t pertinent to her argument.
The dial swings the other way when Ken Kratz reenters the picture. That’s the most interesting part of the Chicago trial: All the characters from the season, some of whom didn’t participate in this one, have returned. Kratz celebrates the trail immediately after by holding a press conference just outside the federal court in Chicago. Both Nirider and Drizin deride this behavior, calling it tasteless. Drizin implies that Kratz is sullying the name of “elevated” law discussion by doing so. Kratz then goes on his own press tour, promoting his book. His argument? “Steven Avery is a psychopath.” This is a statement he chooses not to back up with expert commentary. (When pressed about the title, he corrects the sentence to “I allege that Steven Avery is a psychopath. Emphasis all mine, y’all!)
Meanwhile, Zellner is on her own warpath on Twitter. She tweets: “To all the skeptics, doubters, & haters just be patient because we are really going to make you mad.”
For all her huffing and puffing, her work isn’t going peachy, either. The evidence she retrieved (two bloodstain cuttings, two bloodstain swabs, a swab from the ignition area, and a swab from the hood latch of the Rav 4) wasn’t significant, although she does conclude that the swab from the hood latch has to have been falsified. She and Karl Reich — a forensic DNA expert — conclude that the profile obtained from the swab must have actually been a groin swab from when Steven was first taken into custody. Investigator Wiegert was present when this swab was taken. He was also the person who turned in the hood latch swab. So: What if Wiegert took the swab and then turned it in, claiming it was a swab from the hood?
They also conclude that the swab on the key has been fixed in some way. In an exemplar test, Reich and Zellner find a tenth of the DNA swabbed from the Toyota key found in Steven’s trailer. How is it that so much DNA got on the key, when all he did was touch it? Buting, way back when, suggested that investigators took a toothbrush and “swabbed” it onto the key.
Still, things feel futile. This episode emphasizes the Averys’ struggle once more. The auto lot is struggling. Steven’s mother Dolores needs surgery to improve her circulation. Steven himself is bored, sick of seeing the people who put him in prison on Dateline.
Every episode of the season thus far has included a list of people who declined to participate in the show. The lists appear to be getting longer as the show goes on — this time around, Ryan Hillegas, one of the main suspects, is on the list. Scott, Teresa’s ex-roommate, declines to talk to Zellner (and the filmmakers) after speaking with a lawyer. Steven isn’t the only one running out of air.
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