- By: R. Theodora Appleton
- Twitter: TheApples_816
There’s a new Netflix documentary series called Making a Murderer. The show is based on real events and was first streamed in mid December, 2015.
The show has caught interest of many viewers and is making a huge scene for a wide variety of Netflix subscribers.
The series evokes feelings of confusion, fear, and awe as it unravels the unfair story of a man’s journey through the Wisconsin Court system.
In the first couple episodes the audience learns about the flawed prosecution, and conviction of Steven Avery for sexual assault in 1985.
The only evidence brought to the table in this case was the victim’s description of the perpetrator.
After spending 18 years in prison, DNA tests proved Avery’s innocence. Nearly two decades of his life were wasted for a crime he didn’t commit.
Besides the faulty actions of the police and investigators in this case, it is clear that there are issues with the way the courts rely on human memory (among other issues in our justice system).
How can there be a fair trial when memory isn’t always the truth? There’s a woman who has spent her life researching this very topic.
Elizabeth Loftus is a cognitive scientist who has dedicated her professional life to studying human memory. She has researched in legal context and in the lab.
Her influential work has made great strides in the justice system.
Loftus’s empirical research provides evidence that human memory is constantly reconstructed and at times hardly reliable, especially in court cases.
In her novel, Eyewitness Testimony, Loftus explains that over 8,000 people are innocent when convicted and sent to jail in the United States every year. That is a staggering number.
When trying to understand our own memories and make rational decisions, we must consider the way our memories work. Loftus’s research provides us with great lessons to remember when it comes to memory.
More importantly, what is memory to you? Most people would describe memory as his or her prized moments of the past. Memory also consists of what you ate for breakfast yesterday, what your plans are for tomorrow, or the directions to the Dunkin Donuts across town.
Memory can be something that we have to chase. It’s also something that can haunt us and not leave us alone. Most importantly, memory is what you make of it.
Steven Avery’s case put on the big screen for all of us to watch is one of many cases in legal history that prove the fallibility of human memory and the unknowns about our cognitive processes.
*Images taken from Google.