Sunday, 28 February 2016

Making a Murderer - Making Friends - Making a Difference

Every now and again, something will come along and capture the attention of the world. 2016's first big thing was Making a Murderer. First airing on Netflix in December 2015, the documentary telling the story of Steven Avery and Brendan Dassey quickly picked up a following, and subsequently highlighted the huge amount of flaws in the US criminal justice system.

The natural side effect of anything that becomes well known to the public is the creation of a "fandom". Look at any trend over the years: LOST, Harry Potter, Pretty Little Liars, The Vampire Diaries, Twilight... every one of those things gripped people and created debates and discussions. Whether it was the question about whether Professor Snape was working for good or evil, or if you were Team Edward or Team Jacob, or... who on earth is A? These things set people talking. Inevitably, you get people bickering amongst themselves, but the very positive plus side is that in amongst all this discussion, friends can be made.

The obvious difference with those things in comparison to Making a Murderer is they are all fictional. When I first got involved with voicing my thoughts and opinions about MaM, I did so with the intention of being fair to all parties - even the ones that are unpopular. Why? Because as much as they are on our screens and viewed as such, they are NOT characters. They are real people. Real people with real things to lose.

I very quickly found like-minded Making a Murderer fans. By like-minded I mean, people who were kept awake at night by the injustice. People who had very few people to discuss the documentary with. People who felt helpless. And on the lighter side, people who eased some of those feelings by sharing memes, giggling over things like the Simpsons parody, and having a joke about the now infamous love the world has for Jerry Buting and Dean Strang.

When I started writing about MaM, the last thing I expected was to make friends. I've made friends through other fandoms, but it genuinely never crossed my mind that I would make more because of Making a Murderer. Much of it happened after my last blog post - the very tongue-in-cheek post about Jerry Buting's Twitter. Imagine the shock when the man himself tweeted that he thought the post and following conversation was funny!

But here's the thing. Whilst we were having a bit of fun, and no doubt will continue to do so, real friendships began to form. And that's amazing to me.

Following on from that though, as much as we enjoy the JButes banter, we're all united in the fact that we want to do something that will help. We want to ask questions. We want to learn about all the ways things went wrong for Steven Avery and Brendan Dassey. You could be forgiven for thinking that just because I focus on the lighter areas when I can, that I don't take this seriously. That I'm not smart. But I do. And I am (well...relatively :p).

And then comes the making a difference part. Not just amongst the real friends I've made, but amongst those I've encountered and had short discussions with, people ARE trying to make a difference. Megan McGuinness and Megan Leigh Prather (apologies if I missed someone!) were involved in a protest outside the Manitowoc County Court House, and a protest is now also being planned in London. People are selling merchandise to raise money for the Innocence Project. People are selling merchandise to help the Avery/Dassey families. People are eager to study law, or they are looking other injustices that have happened. Garrett M. Scott has become an advocate for Valentino Dixon, yet another wrongly accused man sitting in prison for a crime he didn't commit(watch that video - it'll blow your mind).

My point is, when something like MaM comes along, it DOES bring people together and however slowly, it WILL make a difference. And I guess that was the point of the documentary in the first place.

Wednesday, 24 February 2016

8 Times Jerry Buting's Twitter Was the Coolest Place Ever

It's no secret that Making a Murderer's favourite criminal defense lawyers Jerry Buting and Dean Strang have captured the hearts and minds of the world since the documentary first landed on Netflix. Take a look around online and you'll see all manner of tributes to this dynamic duo, and rightly so. The level of dedication and integrity they have shown both through the series and since is inspiring, and has given hope to those who were left feeling angry and helpless after watching Steven Avery's story. 

Jerry Buting has now become even more of an internet sensation with his kindness, wit, and charm in the crazy world of Twitter. Mr. B is a busy guy, yet he still manages to carve out a little time in his day to talk to his followers, finding the perfect balance between discussing the things that matter, and having a laugh with his fans. Here's a look at 8 times Jerry Buting's Twitter account was the coolest place ever!

1. That time he embraced girl power...

Is there really any better endorsement than this? There are two levels of awesome here. Firstly, the fact that JB used the phrase "girl power" which will always elicit a chuckle - especially from 90's girls who can still hear the chants echoing around their skulls from overexposure to the Spice Girls. And secondly because, it was simply an extremely kind thing to say. Zig-a-zig-ah! 

2. That time he showed off his swagger...

If you're a Buting & Strang fan, you'll be fully aware of the amount of awesome and hilarious merchandise now available, and this t-shirt is right up there with the best. When someone tweeted this genius piece of artwork at Jerry, he wasn't shy with his response! ;) The debate about which way around this sentence should be continues to this day in chat rooms across the world! 

3. That time he embraced his street name...

#JButes was something that slipped out when I was writing an article a while back, and - praise the Lord - it sort of caught on! The fact that Jerry thought this was worthy of a mention made our day! 

4. That time he said what we were all thinking...

No further explanations needed. 

5. That time he was flattered by Strang & Buting phone backgrounds...

He says this like it's not normal to set devastatingly handsome lawyers as phone backgrounds. I mean, I guess, it would be weird to have Dean Strang as your phone background... right? No...? *whistles innocently*

6. That time he politely shot down an admirer...

This is one of JButes' finest fan interactions. ccbabcocks took one for the team and asked the question many MaM fans wanted to know the answer to. Most would have casually breezed over this but not our Mr. Buting! The fact that he finished, with, "But thanks anyway," just made us love him even more!

7. That time he praised his wife (and it was so sweet, we weren't even jealous!)...


8. That time he told his followers how badass we are...
It's true. Only people with high intelligence and exquisite taste follow The Buting! 

There is no question that there will be many more moments of awesome from Jerry Buting - so if you've yet to see it for yourself, get following him! You'll get the fun stuff, but most importantly (because even though we're having a giggle, the serious stuff matters more) you'll hear info on the Avery case, and all kinds of other legal matters that are affecting people right now. 

Mr. Buting - we salute you! 

Thursday, 18 February 2016

Making a Murderer Protest Coming to London on April 2nd

Since December 2015, Netflix documentary Making a Murderer has become a talking point for the millions of people who watched and learned the story of Steven Avery and Brendan Dassey. For those not in the know, Steven Avery of Manitowoc County, Wisconsin, was arrested and jailed for eighteen years for a crime he didn’t commit. After filing a civil lawsuit against Manitowoc County for his wrongful conviction – a claim that could have seen him being awarded $36 million - he was then re-arrested for the murder of twenty-five-year-old photographer, Teresa Halbach. Avery’s sixteen-year-old nephew Brendan Dassey was also jailed for his involvement in the crime. Here’s the problem – the evidence suggesting Avery and Dassey murdered Teresa Halbach is not without flaw. In fact, if you dig a little deeper, the flaws are glaringly obvious, and viewers of the documentary are now demanding these men are given a new and fair trial.

Earlier this year, some of Avery and Dassey’s supporters participated in a protest at the Manitowoc County Courthouse, eager to make their voices heard. Now, UK supporters are getting ready to stage their own peaceful protest in London. I caught up with the organisers, Belinda Wilson and Kayleigh Brandon to find out more.

When did you first watch Making a Murderer?
Kayleigh: I had been nagging my boyfriend to watch it since I first heard about it in December. We finally got around to it in the first week of January. I was instantly hooked, and had to devour it – I couldn’t even wait for the evenings to watch with my boyfriend! Haha, sorry!

Belinda: I started watching Making a Murderer on 15/1/16. I kept seeing the Netflix advert on Facebook. When I was flicking through Netflix I saw it and decided to watch it. I watched the whole ten episodes in one go. My life then changed.

What were your initial thoughts after watching the documentary?
Kayleigh: Shock. Disbelief. Outrage.

Belinda: Anger. Disgust. Sad. Helpless.

What in particular about Steven Avery and Brendan Dassey’s stories affected you?
Kayleigh: With Steven, I was appalled at the blatant class warfare going on. I was hugely disturbed that a system which is meant to exist to see justice served contrived so purposefully and maliciously to steal this man’s life for a crime he was innocent of. He has almost no relationship with his four children as a result. All this, despite him having over a dozen witnesses to alibi him, and a timed receipt from a restaurant miles away from the crime! I was drawn to Brendan as he is the same age as me (born only two weeks to the day after myself). I felt guilt at the rites of passage I have enjoyed (learning to drive, first job, buying a house etc.) whilst he has been behind bars, and a deep, uneasy sense that it could have been any of us manipulated in that way as a na├»ve child. I also work with kids, so I am keenly aware of their vulnerability.

Belinda: With Steven's story, I was extremely sad that Steven had lost eighteen years of his life and his children's lives, seeing his marriage fall apart. Hearing the pain in his voice, seeing the pain in his face. I was appalled at what lengths the prosecution was willing to go to get a conviction for both the rape and murder. Brendan's story hit hard. Being a youth support worker myself, for children with learning disabilities, I instantly felt the need to protect Brendan. Seeing Brendan go through intense interrogation by those so-called professionals made me feel physically sick. Still haunts me now.

When did you first think of the idea for a UK protest?
Kayleigh: After the recent protests in Manitowoc and Madison, many UK supporters had expressed a desire for something similar over here. I suggested it a few times on various posts and got lots of likes, but it wasn’t until I connected with Belinda that I found somebody willing to go for it!

Belinda: After watching closely on the family Facebook page and seeing their protest coming together, I felt gutted that I lived so far away. I felt helpless. I wanted to be there showing my support to Steven, Brendan and his family. I also wanted to express my disgust at the criminal justice system. I posted a post to the Facebook group with my intentions for a protest in the UK as I received private messages from people in the UK who felt as helpless as I did. There was a lot of interest and this is how Kayleigh and I came together and decided to set up an events page

Can you give us some more details of what will happen on the day of the protest?
Kayleigh: April 2nd 2016. 11am US Embassy then 2pm Parliament Square. People are free to join at any point in the day they like, and any short time they can spare would be hugely appreciated! People are encouraged to use their imagination and create their own signs, but we will likely have some spares! We have ‘FREE STEVEN AVERY & BRENDAN DASSEY’ t-shirts available, and are also encouraging people to make an impact visually with orange jumpsuits, handcuffs, taped mouths, etc. We want to show solidarity with Steven and Brendan whilst also commenting on the way the US system is trying to hush up this injustice. We have international MMA fighter Jimmy ‘Justice’ Millar attending, as well as former US prisoner turned author/public speaker Shaun Attwood. We have received messages of support from Jerry Buting, and the admin and family in the official family Facebook page.

As you can see, these ladies are extremely passionate about this cause, and they are ready to get out there and seek some justice! If you would like to be part of this protest, you can find all the details on their Facebook events page here.