Sheila Berry, President
Truth in Justice
Before the internet, I believed that if people just knew the truth about controversial issues, they would demand that the right and moral thing be done. Comments sections in online newspapers, blogs and discussion boards demonstrated just the opposite. The postings by the public when the Avery and Dassey murder case occurred reflected the lowest urges of human beings. Long before the trials began, a return to the death penalty (abolished in Wisconsin in 1853), with retroactive application to Steven Avery and Brendan Dassey, was demanded, and bills were introduced in the state legislature. (These lost steam when it was determined it could not be applied retroactively.) Average citizens believed whatever the Manitowoc Sheriff, special prosecutor Ken Kratz and investigators from the Wisconsin Department of Justice and Calumet County told them. They were heroes.
Ten years later, Making A Murderer turned the tables. This wasn't a quick reiteration of the prosecution's claims, 53 minutes air time on a commercial network. Over the course of 10 one-hour segments, Moira Demos and Laura Ricciardi peeled back the layers of corruption and lies and showed us who the real criminals were. The public reaction was swift and, to me, surprising. Here are 20 representatives emails received by the Manitowoc Sheriff's Office in the two months following debut of the series. These were obtained by USA Today through and Open Records request.
1. "Saw your show on Netflix! Manitowoc County is now officially on the map for having the most corrupt (law enforcement officers) in the nation, congrats. I used to think of cranes when I heard the name Manitowoc, not anymore."
2. "I had recently fell into a large sum of money and was thinking of moving to your county, but after what I saw concerning your department’s cover-up and framing Steven Avery and his nephew, I was seriously taken aback. There is NO WAY I will move there, your state prosecutor is a snake, your judges are corrupt and the ease in which you framed those two innocent men, well your cover-up has just reaffirmed my mistrust in the judicial system and police. Nice job!"
3. "I know you keep defending your crime mob department saying that people don’t know all the facts and by discrediting the documentary, but whether he is guilty or not, how in the hell do you and your mobsters sleep at night? … Your office might be the most corrupt organization in North America now that El Chapo has been captured. You and your department are the very reason that great officers and departments throughout our country are losing respect and trust from the American people."
4. "May God forgive the morally corrupt officers who participated in this case. Whether Steven Avery or Brendan Dassey are innocent or guilty they sure got railroaded by the indecent actions of your department. I truly wonder about the way justice is meted out in Wisconsin and Manitowoc County in particular."
5. "As the father of a Down syndrome age 16 daughter, I know how easy it is to manipulate a mentally challenged person by promising what they want at a precise moment. Regardless of guilt or innocence, what your office did to manipulate that young man’s testimony in the Avery case was repulsive and I would suspect unconstitutional. That will be determined in federal court, I hope … Hopefully you run a more honest and transparent ship than did the prior sheriff."
6. "Your entire sheriff dept are the ones who should be tossed in jail … It makes me ashamed to be from Wisconsin and you can bet I won’t be in a hurry to ever drive past your cesspool of evil. Ever … God will deal with everyone who had a hand in this mess, you can be sure of that. Just because the Pope said God welcomes sinners doesn’t mean the door is open for Manitowoc County … I am a Christian woman and am having a very hard time with what I have seen. No, I don’t think God will help any of you, as you know the truth and have done nothing."
7. "Tell me please, what has Steve Avery done to this community that he deserved to be set up for a murder? All evidence points towards the incompetence of your department … I hope and pray your department and local police and that judge are found out, and YOU rot in jail. You are unbelievable. What did that man ever do to you people? Why him? Why?"
8. "I am certain I did not see everything that happened in that trial. But I am equally as certain that what I did see, and hear, was more than enough to not only show a preponderance of reasonable doubt, but to convince me that Manitowoc County ... is replete with corruption. To be sure, I am not saying Mr. Avery was innocent, but, there was clear and convincing evidence, to me, of a massive amount of reasonable doubt which means he is innocent in this country. You all may have won a trial ... against one uneducated man, but you all have lost so much more. Everything your pathetic county stands for is forever tarnished with the mockery of justice that was promulgated in that courtroom."
9. "I just wanted to reach out with disgust at how your department handled the Steven Avery case. The facts are obvious that your department had something to do with this and a cover-up looks to be very clear. Your department has lost all credibility and right now is in the media because of your inability to prove justice … One day it will come out that James Lenk and Andrew Colborn planted evidence in this case that lead (sic) to Steven’s arrest. What will your department come out and say then? You better hope you have a good PR team handy."
10. "Shocked seeing the Netflix series 'Making a Murderer.' I simply cannot comprehend how our (civilized) world can so easily step over the aspect of reasonable doubt. It is sad to see for the world that the state of Wisconsin still lives in isolation and narrow-minded thinking."
11. "I am sure that after you are all exposed, you will not feel any regret for putting an innocent man in prison for the majority of his life; I am sure the only regret you will feel is that of being caught. But I hope that one day you will perhaps feel the embarrassment and shame that your families will feel and then maybe you will begin to understand that what you do has an (effect) on others."
12. "We just finished learning about the Teresa Halbach murder case. I’m not sure I can look my kids in the eye and believe my own words anymore. Maybe the nightly news has been right all along: we live in a corrupt and violent world where not even small-town justice is free from corruption and agendas … The city of Manitowoc and the state of Wisconsin should be ashamed of who was/is representing them and who was/is supposedly protecting its citizens. I can, however, now look my children in the eyes and say, 'at least we don’t live in Wisconsin.'"
13. "The actions towards the Avery family by the Manitowac (sic) Sheriff’s Department are among the most deplorable examples I have seen of pure evilness in human society … I hope you are aware that a growing portion of this country, if not this planet, is under the opinion that your department is corrupt and a great shame to the American people, our government and our Constitution."
14. "I would be embarrassed to hold my head up high knowing that your department has sentenced an innocent man twice to jail and also a special boy who hasn’t even enjoyed life yet. I hope that detective Lenk and Goulburn (sic) rot in hell as it is almost certain that they are behind this corruption and lies … I hope use (sic) all can’t sleep at night and justice comes your way. What a joke of a department."
15. "I would be fearful to ever take my family on a trip and stop in your county to even get fuel. I’d run the grave risk of being arrested for arson and armed robbery before my tank was filled with gasoline. According to social media, people all across America feel the same way. How sad for your county’s image. I truly feel sorry for the residents of your county who will be judged according to the actions of a few."
16. "The documentary exposes the level of corruption in your department. Nothing you say will convince vast majority of your citizens that you are good guys. The facts and evidence tell a different story. Steven Avery and Brendan Dassey are innocent. Your department is corrupt and all of you should be prosecuted to the highest extend (sic) of law."
17. "You should be ashamed of yourself and the crooked department you run. The injustice that Steven Avery experienced during the murder trial of Teresa Halbach is INSANE! Your department is a JOKE. Your entire county is FILLED with white trash idiots and you have the audacity to bully and pick on him all this after falsely imprisoning him for 18 of his prime years of his life. God Bless his mother and father who have had to live through this … I would NEVER EVER visit your town in fear that if I were to run a stop sign, you would have me arrested on a murder charge. Shame on you."
18. "I would never travel to your town as it is apparent there is a lot of corruption in the sheriff’s office, the disgraceful prosecutor, and even the judges, including the appellate courts … It is truly unbelievable that your community could make such a travesty of the judicial system. Not surprising that Mr. Kratz resigned as a result of disgraceful behavior. Please know that your judicial system looks like you all are unethical, immoral and corrupt. And the sad thing is … there is a murderer out there who has gotten away with it! Unbelievable! Does Wisconsin know what JUSTICE is?"
19. "Remind me not to move to your county! You guys will convict anyone for anything without evidence. I find it amazing that anyone involved from your county involved in the Steven Avery case can sleep at night. One of the biggest liars even got promoted to (lieutenant)? Truly shameful."
20. "Never have I heard of such corruption at the hands of law enforcement as in the case of Steven Avery. People like you are a plague on our country. Those responsible for this miscarriage of justice – the countless employees of Manitowoc who acted illegally, who lied, and who turned a blind eye to the unethical actions of their peers all deserve to burn in hell. You are responsible for the distrust and hatred for law enforcement that is ever-prevalent in our society – and these sentiments are DESERVED.