Written by Alyssa Walker

The Netflix documentary, "Making a Murderer," is giving some law students in Utah insight into ethics, DNA, juvenile rights, and other legal issues.

The story centers on Steven Avery, his 16-year-old nephew, Brendan Dassey, and the 2005 death of photographer Teresa Halbach in Manitowoc County, Wisconsin. 

The documentary unravels over 10 episodes and leads viewers to question the defendants' guilt and the possibility that the police framed them.

It's s so riveting, said law school professor, Shima Baughman, that she's using it with her law students.

In her course, she uses trial transcripts and one of the case's defense lawyers.

She says that case is a bit unusual because Steven Avery was wrongfully convicted of sexual assault and attempted murder in 1985, spent 18 years in jail and was exonerated in 2003 with DNA evidence. In 2007, he was convicted of murdering Halbech. 

In a BBC article, she said, "The class filled up within the first hour of registration," she told Newsbeat. "I've had students that have watched the show five times. It's making their law school experience a more unique one."

Unique it is. She wants to highlight flaws in the legal process.

In 2016, Dassey's murder conviction was overturned because a judge ruled that police coerced him to make his confession. The judge ordered his release, but the US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit blocked it until the appeal could be heard. Dassey is still awaiting further appeal. 

Avery's defense lawyer Dean Strang visited the law class and said, "I want to be involved in thinking through how we might improve the safety and reliability of our criminal justice institutions."

Learn more about studying law. 

Alyssa Walker is a freelance writer, educator, and nonprofit consultant. She lives in the White Mountains of New Hampshire with her family.
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