[Spoiler Alert – I’m talking about the TV series Making a Murderer, Jinxed, the OJ Simpson trial, and the Aarushi case here. If you’re not familiar with these and don’t want to know how they turned out, stop reading now]
You know in your typical detective story there’s a crime, detective comes in, and thanks to his/her prowess, the crime is figured out, usually the culprit is caught and order is restored? Well, we’ve been watching a series of TV shows when the opposite happens.
First up, Making a Murderer. WTF. I mean, what the everloving fuck. That is all I have to say on the matter.
The case this story reminded me of the most was the Aarushi case. I am convinced Aarushi’s parents are not the murderers, and the fact that they were caught in the quagmire is like a nightmare upon a nightmare. We watched the movie based on the case – V was not familiar with it – and while a bit Bollywood, it does a good job of showing up for example, the internal politics in the CBI. This may not have been exactly how things went down, but it’s a possible explanation for why there were two CBI teams, something that has always confused me.
Similarly, Making a Murderer, brought out for me the fallacies of the judicial system. For one, the need to believe that the police are above board, even when they are patently not so. How, a guilty verdict is supposed to be delivered when the case is “beyond reasonable doubt” but in a jury system, this does not seem to be the principle at work. Rather, people seem to need to play safe, that they are not letting out a murderer, rather than being cautious about depriving innocent people of their liberty. Moreover, in cases which rest on the implication that the police are corrupt, it is even harder to get a jury to convict as it would involve ordinary people suspending their belief in the fundamental idea that the cops are the good guys.The requirement that the decision be unanimous also means that the stronger members of the group will push people towards their view, and people may just cave in because if they don’t they’re going to be sequestered as jury members indefinitely.
Finally, judges, especially lower level ones, are implicated in the same system as the DAs and the police, and even though the ultimate decision is with the jury, judges steer the case (making decisions on what evidence is admissible, for example) and can be swayed by their own interests, as well as propensity to stand with the system they serve. In this sense, I think a bench of judges is better than a jury of “common folk”. Watching this series, I actually began to think that justice would be better served using an algorithm, something I’ve never thought in the past.
In contrast to Making a Murderer, the series Jinxed is about Robert Durst whose wife disappeared under mysterious circumstances. The differences between Durst and Avery is that Durst is a millionaire. And Durst is free, though apparently the very latest news is that the quantum of suspicion is once more upon him.
A similar cast is the famous OJ Simpson one. There is a new series on FX dealing with that case, and we watched the first episode. It’s much more slickly packaged being on regular television, and I must say I prefer the documentary style. Because I remember the outcome of the case, I have the comfort of knowing what happens in the end, even if the result is hardly satisfying.
In Making a Murder, Avery in a telephone call to his mother, says: “The poor always lose.” And looking at these three cases, that seems to be so. Durst and Simpson were able to afford the best legal defense team. Avery was fortunate that a good lawyer worked for him pro bono. But while an amazing legal seems to be almost a necessity for victory, being from a reputable family certainly helps – and Avery was not. It’s the thing that the philosopher/social scientist Bourdieu calls “cultural capital” that Avery lacked.
Ultimately, these cases showed me how justice is rarely served. It is the very thirst for justice that is the beginning of its undoing because when people want justice what they really want is closure, and quickly. This means that a culprit has to be found and sacrificed, and it seems okay with most people that someone – anyone, but preferably someone who fits in with our idea of what a criminal looks like – is made to pay so that we don’t have to contend with the idea that danger is lurking out there.