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Exoneree Dwayne Dail Discusses His Thoughts On ‘Making a Murderer’

Dwayne Dail in 2007

Dwayne Dail is one of millions who has sat down to binge watch the Netflix series “Making a Murderer” since the documentary’s debut in December 2015. The series details the murder investigation of Teresa Halbach and the convictions of Steven Avery and Brendan Dassey for her murder. For many, the documentary has caused outrage, as it makes a strong argument for the innocence of the accused.

Dwayne’s emotions ran much deeper than most while watching the story play out on his television. Dwayne lived through a similar experience that continues to haunt him to this day. Thoughts of his own struggles ran through his head as he watched what appeared to be the railroading of two innocent people. There is no way to properly comprehend the pain and despair one goes through when wrongly accused of a crime, unless you have lived through a similar ordeal yourself. Dwayne has experienced the nightmare firsthand, and has come out the other side as a survivor.

Dwayne Dail was wrongfully convicted in 1989 for the 1987 rape of a 12-year-old girl in North Carolina. He was sentenced to two life sentences plus 18 years. Dwayne suffered greatly in prison for 18 years before being cleared by DNA evidence in 2007.

Dwayne received a pardon and was declared actually innocent by the state of North Carolina. The DNA evidence that cleared Dwayne, also led to the actual perpetrator.

Dwayne now works with the nonprofit organization that fought for his freedom, in order to help others who are currently wrongfully convicted. He often posts updates on the cases he follows on his Facebook page, and he recently voiced his outrage after watching Making a Murderer. After reading his poignant comments on the documentary, I contacted Dwayne to see if he would be interested in getting more involved with helping Brendan Dassey, a case that our organization Injustice Anywhere currently supports. Dwayne was eager to help. I introduced him to Jax West, who is a staunch advocate for Brendan Dassey as well as Steven Avery. Jax runs our Free Brendan page on Facebook, and contributes articles to our website freebrendan.org.

After a group chat, Dwayne was energized to help with our group’s efforts, and also agreed to answer a series of questions that we had put together about Making a Murderer. In the end, he went above and beyond, by actually writing his own article on his observations of the documentary, along with some of his own life experiences.

My Thoughts on the Netflix Documentary “Making a Murderer”

By Dwayne Dail

I appreciate the opportunity to express my thoughts and opinions on the documentary, “Making a Murderer.” I was skeptical to even watch it, because I had heard how biased it was. Much to the dismay of many of my colleagues and associates, I am a rather conservative-minded guy. I am not an advocate of the guilty. I am an advocate of the factually innocent and the factually innocent only. God knows there are enough of those to keep me awake at night so, like others, I did not watch “Making a Murderer” when it first came out.

I, like many others, I’m sure, immediately thought that the bias meant that the entire truth was not going to be told. I know the importance of the entire truth. What I found, though, while watching “Making a Murderer” was that nothing more was necessary to not only create reasonable doubt for Steven Avery, but to completely exonerate Brendan Dassey of any knowledge whatsoever of the crime. Videotape does not lie, and that video of Brendan being interrogated by both the detectives, as well as, his OWN “defense team” was just infuriating. I have not slept well since watching it. The pure evilness of the tactics they used to manipulate Brendan as a pawn to use against Steven is just incomprehensible to me. To think that they have an actual name for this kind of railroading, the Reid Technique, should scare us all to our very cores.

Although I am an exoneree, exonerated on August 28, 2007, after almost 19 years of wrongful conviction and incarceration, I cannot compare my case with Brendan’s. There are many parallels between my case and Steven Avery’s first wrongful conviction. I was not manipulated or interrogated the way Brendan was. Although I had no clue that an innocent person could be convicted and sent to prison for life, I was never pressured to confess or anything like the horrible treatment that Brendan received.

I was offered three years of probation to plead no contest to a misdemeanor, which I refused before my court-appointed idiot attorney could get it out of her clueless mouth. I was innocent, and I was going to prove it. No worries. I had faith in the system that I had committed no crime and, therefore, I had nothing to worry about. My trial started on Monday. I was convicted on Wednesday, sentenced to two life sentences plus 18 years on Thursday, and sent to Central Prison on Friday. My railroading was far different than Brendan’s. Every exoneration case is.

Much like Steven Avery’s first wrongful conviction, it is my opinion, that there were many people who knew who the actual perpetrator was in my case. His name was given to the local police and my court-appointed idiot attorney. Records show they were aware of him and his activities, yet they refused to even investigate. They had their guy, and that was it. Back to the donuts.

Watching Making a Murderer brought back many awful memories. Steven Avery’s mom just breaks my heart. I cannot see her face in my mind’s eye without crying. I lost my mother almost two years ago. I know what I went through during my false imprisonment, but I can never really grasp the full picture of how it affected my family.  I caught a glimpse of how awful it must have been for my mother. And now, to imagine having to go through it for a second time, as Steven and his family has, is just unfathomable to me. Just as there is a special place in Hell for those who have committed these atrocities against this family, there is a special place in Heaven for Ms. Avery and all the family who have endured through this continuous travesty.

There were so many things so obviously wrong with this case and the way the entire ordeal was handled/mishandled. I will start at what outrages me the most, so these will not be in chronological order:

  • The email from Brendan’s own “defense team” saying that the Avery family tree only had one branch, etc…
  • The videos of Brendan’s own “defense team” showing that there wasn’t even a feeble attempt to defend or advocate for him. Their goal was to assist the State with the case against Steven Avery. Period. Brendan’s attorney, Len Kachinsky, announced to the world that his client was guilty before he’d ever even met with Brendan! OUTRAGEOUS! Without question, for me, the most upsetting aspect of the documentary, was the complete and utter inhumane treatment of Brendan Dassey.
  • Of course, the obviously planted key, with Steven Avery’s DNA on it ONLY, which is absolutely impossible. There was NO DNA from the victim in that trailer. NONE. Impossible to rape, cut her hair, slit her throat and shoot her in the head without there being DNA all over that room. No marks on the bed from ropes or chains. IMPOSSIBLE.
  • I do not believe for one nanosecond that the “Good Lord” led that lady to the victim’s truck on the Avery property.
  • I believe that the detective was reading that license plate off of the victim’s vehicle.

I view cases objectively all the time. If anything, I am the toughest one to convince of a person’s actual innocence. I would no more want a wrongful exoneration as I would a wrongful conviction. Neither a wrongful conviction nor a wrongful exoneration serves the safety of the public, as there is no justice either way. I believe the punishment should fit the crime, but I also believe that we must be sure to find the truly guilty.

In my opinion, when there is so much obvious mishandling and planting of evidence, then there can be no verdict but Not Guilty.  The police, themselves, created more than reasonable doubt.

Steven Avery’s case was one of many that inspired me along the way to continue my own battle against wrongful conviction. I had heard of Steven through the many newspaper articles that I read while in prison about his exoneration. I was only vaguely aware that he had been charged, tried, and convicted for the murder of Teresa Halbach, as I was still languishing in prison for a crime I did not commit. Five months and 10 days after Steven Avery’s conviction for the Halbach murder, I was exonerated by DNA, after almost 19 years of wrongful imprisonment.

After my exoneration, I immediately moved to Florida with my family.  I did not want to be in NC, and I certainly did not want to be in Goldsboro. There was a myriad of reasons, not least of which, I was afraid of the police.

I received my Pardon of Innocence in October 2007. My civil suit was settled in December 2013. In total, it took six years for me to receive compensation from the state.

My best advice to anyone who is ever called in for questioning by the police is to say NOTHING, Exercise your right to remain silent because everything that you say WILL be used against you. Get an attorney and let them do their job.

If someone wishes to help a person who is incarcerated, I would say to never forget them in your most fervent prayers. None of us are promised tomorrow, but the odds are a lot worse in there than they are out here. Write letters, send cards, just to let them know you are thinking about them and that they have not been forgotten. If they are a reader, send them books. If they like artwork, send them art supplies, if they are allowed. There’s a delicate balance of helping someone in prison with material things and putting a target on them. That balance must be maintained on both sides.

My advice to Steven and Brendan and anyone else who is battling a wrongful conviction would be to never give up, always keep hope alive in your hearts and minds, and know that God has the last say. Let the innocence you know you own give you peace. Know that people love you and care. The truth has a way of coming to the light.

I cannot honestly say that I had any choice in continuing to seek my freedom year after year, brick wall after brick wall, rejection after rejection. I was innocent, and I was not about to lay down and die. I focused on survival. I tried to educate myself through books. Books were educational and an escape for me. They kept me civilized, I believe. I read a lot about the Holocaust and Nazi Germany during WWII. These true stories in some weird way made me thankful, reminders that my conditions could be much worse. They motivated me in a way that if someone could survive all of that, then surely I could survive my plight.

I am now a board member at the North Carolina Center on Actual Innocence, the non-profit organization that fought for my freedom. I have been honored to take part in four exoneration cases here in NC.  I look forward to seeing Johnny Small, Mark Carver, Ronnie Long and other wrongfully convicted in NC come home this year.


The also Complete and Innocent Dwayne Dail

Steven Avery & Brendan Dassey

On behalf of Injustice Anywhere, Jax West and I would like to thank Dwayne Dail for providing his thoughts on Making a Murderer. We are grateful to have the opportunity to hear his unique perspective on this compelling story.

We are proud to announce that Dwayne will be a featured speaker at the We Stand 4 Innocence Rally, in Manitowoc, Wisconsin, on June 11, and he will also be attending the Friends of Avery/Dassey Family Campout, which will take place on June 10 and 11. People are encouraged to come out to the rally to meet Dwayne, along with fellow supporters, and several members of the Avery family, to help raise awareness of Steven and Brendan’s fight for freedom.

If you cannot make it to Manitowoc, and you still wish to show your support for Steven and Brendan, there are multiple rallies scheduled in a variety of states on June 11. To learn more about rally locations, please visit these Facebook event pages:

Manitowoc Rally: https://www.facebook.com/events/1710872892535370/

Worldwide Rally: https://www.facebook.com/events/612622728890692/

Campout: https://www.facebook.com/events/1260847413944974/

Please visit the North Carolina Center on Actual Innocence website to learn more about Dwayne’s case and the organization that fought to secure his freedom.