Friday, January 15, 2016

'Making a murderer': story asks 'What does Netflix' Making a Murderer mean for the New Zealand justice system?" - (Adeptly analyzes the impact of popular culture on miscarriages of justice - and shows why New Zealand needs an independed criminal cases review system. HL); "We're on the same continuum as the US; we might not be in the exact same location but we're on the same path, and that's disturbing," Auckland University criminologist Ron Kramer says. While he sees series like Making a Murderer and Serial as a good use of popular culture - "better than watching the Kardashians" - Kramer worries a focus on wrongful convictions will see other, less shocking justice issues continue to be overlooked, including the over-representation of Maori and Pasifika in prisons." Bonus: Impact of 'Making a Murderer' on Canada; (Must, Must Read. HL);

SPOILER WARNING: The article contains spoilers for the Netflix show Making a Murderer.

STORY: "What does 'making a Murderer' mean for justice around the world and for New Zealand, published by

GIST: "Wrongful convictions have existed as long as there's been a criminal justice system, but to fans of Making a Murderer and other pop culture hits, like last year's podcast Serial, the time has come to make a change - and it could have ripples in New Zealand's own justice system.........Sir Peter Jackson's involvement in the film West of Memphis - and his monetary support for new testing in the case - helped free the three men. "What it comes down to, and it sounds horrible, is I was entertained by it," Kearney says. "I'm not watching 10 episodes because I feel like I should, I'm watching the episodes because it's entertaining. It got my blood boiling."........Damien Echols was an 18-year-old metalhead when he and two other Arkansas teens - known as the West Memphis Three - were arrested in 1993 for the murder of three young boys. They were found guilty, and Echols was sentenced to death. But thanks to the 1996 documentary Paradise Lost and its sequels, the trio rose to prominence as one of the most high-profile suspected miscarriages of justice in history. After the film's release, the band Metallica, Pearl Jam frontman Eddie Vedder, and actor Johnny Depp, took up the mens' fight. Sir Peter Jackson later came on board, co-producing West of Memphis with Echols, and funding new testing in the case. The new evidence gleaned from the films supported their innocence, and in 2011, the trio were released from prison under a rare plea deal - but they haven't yet been exonerated. Echols - who has spent time in New Zealand since his release - says without the documentaries, there's no way he'd be free today. "The films and media coverage toward the end made all the difference in my case. I'm convinced we wouldn't have been released without the information provided by these sources," he told Stuff via email. "Paradise Lost drew thousands of people from around the world to support us, and that brought pressure upon the state of Arkansas. "West of Memphis is a concise, complete documentation of what happened, which will continue to educate people about our case, and what happens in many wrongful conviction cases. It will continue to bring pressure upon the state to exonerate us." Like millions of others, Echols has taken an interest in Avery's case - due, in part, to the sheer numbers of people contacting him to point out similarities between their cases - but he actively avoids Making a Murderer. "I don't watch or listen to any shows about wrongful convictions. It's just too much like going back into that nightmare for me."......... Similarities have been drawn, too, with Kiwi exoneree Teina Pora: notably, the coerced confessions of both Pora and Avery's co-accused, then-teenager Brendan Dassey. Paula Penfold, the 3D journalist whose reporting on Pora's case helped set him free, and Pora's private investigator Tim McKinnel have both been watching Making a Murderer. They hope the sudden pop culture appeal of miscarriages of justice will have a positive impact on the way justice unfolds in New Zealand. "I think it's a really interesting phenomenon out there at the moment. I think it's a really good thing," Penfold says. She can't help feeling outraged while watching the Netflix series. "I'm almost yelling at the TV sometimes. The way that the police and justice system handled the case is just astonishingly bad." For McKinnel, too, it's a tough watch. "There are so many striking similarities to Teina's case and what happened to him, so many. "That is, at times, quite hard to watch and you feel those emotions start to rise, those frustrations, those roadblocks, that institutional arrogance from the state about what you're doing and why it is you're doing it." As in the West Memphis Three case, McKinnel has little doubt the media and public attention on Pora's case made the slow-turning wheels of justice move more quickly. "That noise becomes important at a couple of levels. It helps with the collection of evidence - when people are aware of cases being examined and being looked at again, they're more likely to talk to you. "With the [Maori TV] documentary about Teina's case, it led to a crucial piece of evidence being discovered by us. "At a political level and a legal level, it helped, the attention helped. I think with the police, it grated with them, and I don't know if it helped with them."......... In the United States, 1728 wrongly-convicted people have been exonerated since 1989 - but a Kiwi expert says there's no reason to believe New Zealand's justice system is getting it wrong any less often. "We're on the same continuum as the US; we might not be in the exact same location but we're on the same path, and that's disturbing," Auckland University criminologist Ron Kramer says. While he sees series like Making a Murderer and Serial as a good use of popular culture - "better than watching the Kardashians" - Kramer worries a focus on wrongful convictions will see other, less shocking justice issues continue to be overlooked, including the over-representation of Maori and Pasifika in prisons.......... The films, shows and podcasts also raise the question: what happens to those whose stories aren't attention-grabbing enough for air-time? Both Kramer and McKinnel say New Zealand needs a Criminal Case Review Commission to look into potential miscarriages of justice, instead of leaving it to media. The current government's pooh-poohed the idea; Labour's promised to establish the agency, if elected. In lieu of an independent Crown-funded body, McKinnel's involved in setting up the new NZ Public Interest Project, a Kiwi equivalent of the US Innocence Project, which itself has secured 337 exonerations across the United States. For now, he certainly sees an advantage for those fighting against the justice system in being able to get their stories across in the media. "It changes how people are treated, and things are thought about a lot more carefully and in a lot more depth than if there was this vacuum and nobody was really paying attention."Kramer is concerned about what the spotlight means for those who aren't in it."

The entire story can be found at:

See also: Impact on Canada; (From 'Now Magazine' and 'Making of a Murderer.': "The police who interrogated Dassey used the Reid Technique, a controversial interrogation method. The Reid Technique is an intense, accusatory and manipulative form of interrogation that is commonly used in Canada and the U.S.  When using the Reid Technique, a police officer who suspects guilt hunts for a confession at every step, first by direct (perhaps aggressive) confrontation of all denials and then by minimizing the suspect’s moral culpability by downplaying blame or having them confess to more socially acceptable versions of the crime. The Reid Technique is effective in securing confessions, but has also been criticized for pushing suspects to falsely confess, especially younger people with lower IQs. Judge Mike Dinkel had strong criticism of the Reid Technique in a recent case from Alberta: "When stripped to its essentials the Reid Technique is solely designed to convince the suspect that he is caught, that the police have overwhelming evidence that he is the culprit, and that there is no way that the suspect will be able to convince the interrogator or anyone else involved in the Criminal Justice System that he didn't do the crime.  "...Although there is no law prohibiting the use of the Reid Technique, I find that it has the ability to extinguish the individual’s sacred legal rights to be presumed innocent until proven guilty and to remain silent in the face of police questioning. "...I denounce the use of this technique in the strongest terms possible and find that its use can lead to overwhelmingly oppressive situations that can render false confessions and cause innocent people to be wrongfully imprisoned." Do wrongful confessions happen in Canada? Absolutely. Joel Labadie and two other young men each confessed to raping and killing a young girl after being interrogated by police for 15 hours. All three of them were innocent. Labadie had trouble explaining why he confessed: "All I know is for hours on end I said 'No, I had nothing to do with it.' Next thing you know I'm sitting here going 'Sure, why not. I did it.' More or less it's like they kill your spirit or something," he said. Canada also allows “Mr. Big” stings. Mr. Big stings are not allowed in the U.S. or Britain due to concerns of false confessions.

See also: Joseph Buckley, President of Reid and Associates, defends "The Reid Technique" in a letter sent to The Charles Smith Blog in response to another post; "It is often stated that the Reid Technique "shows no interest in learning the truth, but the goal is to seek a confession." We clearly state the exact opposite in our book Criminal Interrogation and Confessions (5th edition 2013) on page 5: "The purpose of an interrogation is to learn the truth. A common misperception exists in believing that the purpose of an interrogation  is to elicit a confession.... If the suspect can be eliminated [from suspicion] based on his or her behavior or explanations offered during the interrogation, the interrogation must be considered successful because the truth was learned."

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