Habeas Corpus: The wrongful imprisonment of Steven Avery
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The politics of the body have been debated at length; ideas of moral and natural rights to protect individual autonomy have been presented in the context of class, gender and race for centuries. Such sovereignty has been entrenched in law through the recourse of habeas corpus: the right of redress for unlawful detention or imprisonment before a court. This paper looks at habeas corpus through the lens of the recent ten-part documentary, Making a Murderer (2015), created by Laura Ricciardi and Moira Demos, and streamed on Netflix. This web-television series unpacks the wrongful imprisonment of Steven A. Avery (who served eighteen years for rape), and posits the recent imprisonments of Avery and his nephew Brendan Dassey, both serving life sentences for murder, are also wrongful. This paper also provides a brief overview of the history of the writ of habeas corpus and offers an outline for the continuing importance – within the justice system and within popular culture – of this legal right.
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