Netflix’s Making a Murderer became something of a national obsession over the Christmas holiday, which is probably a good thing, people getting a good look at how the criminal justice system actually works and whatnot. Interest in the case has fueled follow-up stories, which are everywhere now, but unfortunately it’s a bit of an SEO-fueled sh*t storm.
The show has also created the natural dichotomy of people wanting to help two guys (Steven Avery and Brendan Dassey) who seem to have been railroaded by the system and now have no legal recourse other than publicity on the one hand, and on the other, people not wanting to assume we know everything about a case just because we saw a documentary. (To be fair, it was a really long documentary.) I’ll try to parse some of the most recent updates for you.
First, the petition(s).
Petitions defending Steven Avery and Brendan Dassey have garnered 150,000 signatures. A WhiteHouse.gov petition calling for President Obama to pardon Steven Avery and Brendan Dassey has almost 20,000 signatures as of this writing, while a Change.org petition calling for basically the same has another 185,000.
So, do either of these petitions actually have a chance of changing anything? Chances seem slim so far. Most of the Change.org petitions that have actually had an effect seem to involve embarrassing a corporation into doing something differently or changing a formula. Meanwhile, WhiteHouse.gov petition “success stories” seem to involve mostly lip service or ceremonial gestures. But presidential pardons aren’t unheard of. Clinton pardoned 459 people, George W. Bush 200, and Obama has so far pardoned 61. So receiving a presidential pardon is certainly a possibility, but it seems much more likely if you’re a blood relative or somehow connected to a president in a famous scandal, none of which applies to Steven Avery or Brendan Dassey.