Convoluted Brian

the weBlog of Brian McCorkle

The Importance of Understanding

People Talk

One thing is for certain; with a case like the Teresa Halbach murder, there will be much talk. Some of the talk is babbling; some of the talk is posturing; some is denial; some is soul searching.

Reporters talked from the start. Some stuck to the facts as they were revealed in news conferences and court filings. Some made public statements to the effect that Avery is guilty anyway; that is facts don’t count anymore. They took notes at news conferences and at times spoke with leading questions. A one new conference, a reporter stated that the Avery property was likely a repository for questionable vehicles and “Can you verify that?”

Steven Avery talked to reporters. First, he claimed that Halbach would be found alive. Then; after the discovery and subsequent identification of Halbach’s charred bones, Avery insisted that he was not the responsible person. He stated that he was being framed due to his lawsuit against Manitowoc County.

Avery gave reasons why he would not have committed such a crime. Things were finally going right for him. He has a fiance; the State of Wisconsin finally paid his wrongful incarceration fee; The Wisconsin Legislature was considering another amount besides the required payoff; His thirty-six million dollar lawsuit against Manitowoc County was proceeding. Of course, since Avery has been charged with murder, the Wisconsin Legislature wimped out and the lawsuit was settled for a pittance.

But, reasons don’t always matter. Many, perhaps most, murders are not rational, and well-reasoned acts. It is not the case of the perpetrator having the ability to do an analysis of pluses and minuses and the hopefully realizing that there are better alternatives than committing a murder. Even what appears to be planning is often compulsive thinking. Susan Smith would be free today if she had relinquished custody of her children to their father rather than dwelling on their murder. The stigma of the bad mother label would have had far fewer consequences than the killing of her sons. And, such labels can and should be blown off as perversions of our society. I doubt that Timothy McVeigh even cared about consequences. He was on a mission from God when he truck-bombed the Federal Building in Oklahoma City.

Many accused want to defend themselves by speaking out. People who are innocent or who cannot recall the crime often proclaim innocence to reporters or if in jail, to fellow inmates. That is a bad practice. All statements can be used (and even altered) to make innocent activity appear criminal. The best policy for any accused is not to talk with anyone about allegations except their attorney.

Special Prosecutor Kenneth Kratz and Calumet County Sheriff Jerry Pagel were in charge of the news conferences. The public does have a right to know about things although perhaps not during an active investigation. The news people were eager for news and press conferences were the best way to deliver information. But, it was Pagel and Kratz who were talking with Kratz often saying that information had to be withheld.

There were some glitches. Kratz claimed a key to Halbach’s vehicle found in Avery’s bedroom was well hidden. Testimony revealed the key was found in plain sight leading Kratz to obtain more search warrants to justify his misstatement. Testimony also revealed that contrary to Sheriff Pagel’s claims, Manitowoc County Sheriff’s deputies were active in searching Avery’s trailer (and likely other areas) and had themselves pointed out the key. They were supposed to be precluded from on the scene involvement due to conflict of interest. Pagel’s explanation was very weak.

With the announcement the Brendan Dassey confession, Kratz was talking again. He provided almost no detail about the way the interrogation of Dassey was conducted, but described in lurid detail the torture of Teresa Halbach without any evidence to corroborate the confession.

Avery’s attorney, Dean Strang, protested, and requested a gag order. Judge Patrick Willis claimed that Strang was dishonest with his filing because he unnecessarily disclosed a small piece of evidence in another filing. Then Willis turned to Kratz and gently admonished Kratz for his bald attempt to poison the jury pool.

Meanwhile, Avery gave yet another interview. This one was about that confession by his nephew, Brendan. Avery suggested that Dassey was young and easily coerced. This, Avery claimed, corrupted the confession.

The authorities countered that the entire procedure was taped and therefore legal. Sheriff Pagel stated protocol was followed during the interrogation. But, unless the protocol is scientifically valid that doesn’t mean much.

Avery was wrong though. Anyone can be misled under interrogation. With proper technique, confessions have been obtained from innocent persons without the use of violence or torture. If evidence corroborates the confession that will add to the validity. If evidence does not back up the confession, then it must be considered defective. Not only that, but obtained fraudulently.

Dassey’s attorney, Len Kachinsky, mused during television interviews that Avery’s claim about the confession might be sending a message, perhaps an intimidation, to Dassey. Maybe, but reading minds is nothing any human can do.

Avery family members spoke publicly early in the case. When a few members were having doubts about Avery’s innocence, some television anchors happily passed the information along to viewers. But, the statements were sometimes preceded with the stage direction talk “You won’t believe this….” If we will not believe it, then why bother to say it? Avery’s family members have stopped talking to local reporters.

The Halbach family has one spokesman, Mike, the brother of Teresa Halbach. Clearly the family believes both Avery and Dassey guilty. Evidence publicized so far points there. But, the process must play out. Mike Halbach wonders why Dassey doesn’t plead guilty and be done with it.

Brendan Dassey has not spoken publicly until recently. His confession, first made while two detectives kept him boxed in a car for two hours, has been made public to some degree. He asked for a new attorney because he felt his current attorney considers him guilty. His request was denied.

Nowadays, Kratz has become more closed mouthed, no doubt due to the stinging rebuke of the public to his grandiose grandstanding. Steven Avery and his family have remained relatively quiet. Avery’s attorney speaks very little outside court. His main commentary was to tell Kachinsky to try his own case rather than Avery’s. Kachinsky continues his public musings.

And, there is a very real tragedy behind this case. Teresa Halbach no longer talks.

by Brian McCorkle
posted on 4 June, 2006 at 19:57 pm
in category Steven Avery

One thing is for certain; with a case like the Teresa Halbach murder, there will be much talk. Some of the talk is babbling; some of the talk is posturing; some is denial; some is soul searching.

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