The Netflix original documentary, Making a Murderer, became an enormous hit and captured the viewing public’s attention. The 10-part documentary details the life of Steven Avery, a rural Wisconsin man whose three-decade battle with the justice system is at the heart of the film. Steven was originally convicted of chilling crime in 1985 that he did not commit and spent 18 years in prison proclaiming his innocence. In 2002 the Wisconsin Innocence Project obtained a court order for DNA testing on hair fibers recovered at the crime scene, that ultimately led to Steven Avery’s release and exoneration. Then, in 2005, Steven finds himself in trouble again when he is linked to the murder of Teresa Haibach, a photographer who was last seen taking photos at the Avery family junkyard. In 2007, Steven is found guilty of killing Teresa Halbach in a verdict that made American legal history. At the time, Avery was only the second person to be convicted of a serious crime after being freed from prison through DNA testing, according to the national Innocence Project.  Next, the 10-part series captures binge watchers on Netflix as it suggests that Steven Avery was framed and attacks the evidence presented in the case. With over a 100,000 signatures on various petitions arguing for Steven Avery’s release, national media attention has swarmed to the story recently.

Throughout the documentary it becomes clear that Steven Avery’s defense team’s main strategy is to provide a theory that Manitowoc County police officers planted Avery’s blood at the scene of the crime. With the pending $36 million suit against the county and the tampered blood vial held in evidence by the county, at the very least, one is left to wonder. One event during the trial that the documentary paints as the turning point where the momentum swings away from Steven Avery’s favor occurs when the FBI EDTA blood test is admitted into evidence. After the defense cited a vial of Avery’s blood from a previous trial that appeared tampered with that was stored in an evidence locker by Manitowoc County, the prosecution responded with an FBI analyst who had tested 3 of the blood smears for EDTA. EDTA is chemical that is added to blood samples in test tubes to keep the blood in a liquid form for testing. The defense claimed that Steven Avery’s blood was taken from the test tube in evidence and planted in the Teresa’s car. While, the state claimed that this could not be the case because in 3 swabs of blood from the car, there were no traces of the chemical, EDTA. During this portion of the trial and documentary the battle of the experts unfolded right before the viewer’s eyes. Leaving me with more questions than answers: How accurate is the EDTA test? How can a jury be expected to understand and comprehend all of the scientific jargon and theory thrown around? Should the EDTA test been allowed to be presented at trial? Is Steven Avery innocent?

Jason Drory

 

One Response to Making a Murder – Technology in Forensic Evidence Questioned

  1. jblasco says:

    Your gut reaction to question the accuracy and validity of EDTA is valid! The FBI has recently come forward and admitted that ‘hair comparison analysis,’ which was frequently used in the 1980′s-1990′s in criminal cases, is not scientifically valid. They have agreed to reopen cases where defendants were convicted based on this faulty “scientific” testing. It will be interesting to see if something similar will happen with EDTA blood testing cases years down the road.