The simplest explanation of the Steven Avery and Brendan Dassey cases (re the murder of Teresa Halbach)

Avery case “truthers” are people who think it is likely Steve Avery was framed for the murder of Teresa Halbach.

Avery case “guilters” are people who think the evidence against Avery is overwhelming, and the verdict is correct. (I fall into this category).

But I also think the Dassey case is a prime example of an innocent person being psychologically coerced by police into confessing to a crime he didn’t commit.

What I find frustrating is both truther’s and guilter’s resistance to accepting that sometimes the most likely explanation for a strange occurrence turns out to be the obvious one.

Here is a thumbnail sketch of a simple explanation for the known facts. It does not require making big assumptions about unknowns:

Avery brings TH to ASY (Avery Salvage Yard) around 2:30 and makes some kind of advance towards her. It goes sideways resulting in an altercation. Once Avery realizes TH is not someone he can control, and that he has probably committed a crime, this realization, coupled with rage at being rejected leads him to subdue and kill TH.

She was likely dead shortly after she arrived at ASY. Avery puts the body in the back of RAV and hides it. (Possibly in the Garage). He comes up with a plan to dispose of the body. He starts preparing a fire.

Brendan Dassey arrives home from school after all this happens, at around 3:45

He dismembers the body to make it easier to fit in the fire pit. As soon as it’s dark, he brings dismembered body parts to fire and arranges them in the pit. Then he covers them with more fuel. After a spell, he realizes he will run out of fuel but doesn’t want to leave the fire unattended.

So he calls his nephew Brendan over after dinner and sends him to gather fuel around the property. After they get the fire fully burning again, he has Brendan help him clean a spot in the garage. (It’s a reasonable inference that this was a bloodstain, maybe Avery dismembered the body in the garage, but not enough evidence to say definitively.)

Brendan helps Steve with the fire for a while, then goes home after 10.

Through a series of unfortunate events, the cops come to believe that the reports coming from his cousin that Brendan is miserable make them suspicious he knows something about the crime. But Brendan knows nothing.

So under questioning the detectives, convinced Brendan is hiding something, apply more and more manipulative “mind-game” type interrogation tactics, until in confusion a stressed-out kid falsely confesses by contriving a series of mutually exclusive and outlandish scenarios.

Prosecutor Ken Kratz, upon hearing the gory details from Brendan’s confession,  “jumps the gun” and makes a big stink revealing these at his press conference. When corroborating evidence for Brendan’s confession cannot be found, Kratz does not want to back down and make the county and himself look incompetent, so he presses ahead.

Even though the Dassey interrogation material is not used at Avery’s trial, the prosecutors remain convinced Dassey knows something about the crime, even though they probably doubt the factual truth of the confession. At trial they take bits of the confession and weave an absurd theory of the crime that convinces the jury.

Dassey is done in through a series of mishaps, including the initial incomplete of his first attorneys (Kachinsky). He is convicted. Though he has strong evidence his confession is psychologically coerced it’s not enough to overcome the high legal hurdles he faces to obtain post convictions release.

The end.

That’s speculative, obviously, but it’s plausible and requires no contortions of the logic of reasonable methods of inference. It fits neatly with known evidence. I think something close to this is true.

The thing that I think throws people off is that they want to fit things into a narrative archetype that satisfies the human desire for understanding. When we confront complex, tragic, human events, we want to assign people into classic dramatic roles: victim, villains, hero.

Real life doesn’t usually fit so well. But humans are so biased towards narrative explanations that once people adopt one that they think makes sense of what happened, they are reluctant to accept that the emotional investment they made to support this narrative has been wasted.

Whole nations go to war when their cherished narratives are threatened. The story “trumps” the facts all to often in human affairs.

Does Objective Reality Matter Anymore?

This is a personal blog started to look at what causes people to believe in obviously untrue things. Or at least to act like they do. I started thinking more carefully about this issue after being convinced by the Netflix series Making A Murderer that Steven Avery was innocent of the murder he had been convicted of.

I did not just think it was likely he was innocent. I knew he was innocent. And I felt pissed! I live in Wisconsin, and here were these jerkoff yahoos running wild with conspiracies to frame innocent people right in my neck-of-the-woods.

After several days worth of obsessive internet research, it started to dawn on me that the “truther” community on Reddit, who were so confident they were going to find the “smoking gun” and nail the corrupt government officials in Manitowoc County didn’t seem to be making much progress.

I decided to do a little reading on the sub-Reddit r/stevenaveryisguilty. The name of this sub is self-explanatory. I found the posters here to be kind of obnoxious and self-righteous. They mocked the denizens of the internet loudly proclaiming: “Steve was framed!”

As I read more, I came across a post that laid out clearly why the only version of the crime that makes sense is that Avery killed Halbach. The evidence is overwhelming. It hit me like a brick wall, slipping away into a pile of nothing. Despite my previous certainty that Avery was innocent, I had an epiphanetic shift in perspective, where the obvious explanation became the only one that makes sense. In other words “Duh, of course he did it!”