cover image Convicting Avery: The Bizarre Laws and Broken System Behind ‘Making a Murderer’

Convicting Avery: The Bizarre Laws and Broken System Behind ‘Making a Murderer’

Michael D. Cicchini. Prometheus Books, $18 trade paper (220p) ISBN 978-1-63388-255-3

Even readers unfamiliar with the Netflix documentary series Making a Murderer will be intrigued by Cicchini’s insights into the inequities of the criminal justice. Steven Avery spent almost 20 years in prison for the rape of Penny Beerntsen, only to finally be exonerated by DNA evidence; when he sued the Manitowoc, Wis., sheriff’s department for wrongful conviction, he was arrested again and charged with an unrelated murder. The evidence against him included the suspicious discovery of the victim’s car key in plain view on Avery’s bedroom floor, on the sheriff’s department’s sixth search of his property. Cicchini, a criminal defense attorney based in Kenosha, Wisc., and author of Tried and Convicted: How Police, Prosecutors, and Judges Destroy Our Constitutional Rights, uses the unsettling Avery case to highlight common police practices and judicial attitudes that combine to stack the deck against criminal defendants. They include suggestive identification procedures such as show-ups, in which witnesses are shown only one person to identify, and Wisconsin’s loose practice of allowing expert testimony about pretty much anything from pretty much anyone. Even after that practice was ostensibly discontinued by the courts, judges still justified the admission of questionable evidence by stating that it would have been admissible under the prior standards. Cicchini convincingly demonstrates that the Kafkaesque criminal justice in Avery’s case was not an anomaly, and his work is an accessible entree into the debate over how defendants’ rights should be protected.[em] (Apr.) [/em]