University of Melbourne article on the "Making a Murderer Effect" and the Highlighting of Miscarriages of Justice

Posted by Barbara Etter APM on 17 March 2016 | 0 Comments

Came across this very interesting article by Liz Banks-Anderson in Pursuit from the University of Melbourne on Twitter this morning on the "Making a Murderer Effect". See

The article states that a new wave of crime coverage is highlighting miscarriages of justice and changing the way we think about the judicial system. It states that a new "disruptive" force - the "Serial" or "Making a Murderer" effect - is changing the way the law is discussed in the mainstream, including in social media. This is a development from the "CSI Effect".

Comment is provided in the article by University of Melbourne criminal law expert Professor Jeremy Gans. He states:

People will get more used to the potential fallibility of the judicial system and be more willing to ask questions and look for things they were otherwise discouraged from looking for.

Gans then refers to the Victorian case of Farah Jama where an innocent man was convicted solely on the basis of flawed DNA evidence. He then comments on the US Steven Avery case, the subject of the Making a Murderer series on Netflix. Gans comments that there was no strong case against Avery for the murder and that he was "shocked" the conviction succeeded. He comments that he is similarly shocked that, absent of the Making a Murderer documentary, it did not appear that there were a lot of "moves" to remedy the situation.

Gans comments that Making a Murderer has totally blown away the idea that miscarriages of justice are rare, that is one-in-a-million incident. He states that it breaks the idea that the justice system is adequate to its task and cannot get it terribly wrong.

Gans states that anywhere else in the world, including Australia, there would be calls for an inquiry into the Avery case. He points out that the only way to convince a court to revisit the case would be to deliver an argument that outlines some sort of legal flaw in the trial or fresh evidence. (However, Avery failed in all his appeals).

As a comment, here in Australia, if appeals have failed, the only way to get the matter back to the court is through a Petition for Mercy referral process, in the absence of further right to appeal legislation. SA and Tasmania are the only two jurisdictions in Australia to currently have this mechanism when "fresh and compelling" evidence emerges post trial and appeals. It is then necessary to prove that there has been a "substantial miscarriage of justice".

Professor Gans states that what documentaries like Making a Murderer show us is that we need to be more cautious about trusting the process of the law when it is applied to "the human unknown".




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