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Vince Vitrano: Not For Broadcast



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Shawshank Redemption is definitely in my top 20 favorite movies of all time, maybe my top 10.  It's why something that Steven Avery said to me in an interview three years ago sent chills down my spine, and sticks with me to this day.

For those who haven't seen it, and you must, Shawshank is about an innocent man sent to prison for killing his wife. It captures the essence of prison life in the 1940's and 50's through enduring characters and compelling stories.

One of the characters, Brooks, gets out of prison after decades of being locked up. He writes the boys back at the prison saying he feels so out of place being "out", after being "in" for so long. He even wonders whether he ought to commit another crime in order to be locked up again.

Morgan Freeman's character, Red, offers this analysis, "These walls are funny. First you hate 'em. Then you get used to 'em. Enough time passes, you get so you depend on them. That's institutionalized."

Institutionalized. I couldn't help wondering if that's what happened to Steven Avery over the 18 years he was locked up for a crime he did not commit. This photo was taken by a buddy of mine, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Photographer Jeff Phelps, and it captures the very walls Avery left behind.

Months later, that smile seemed to fade, as Avery struggled to adjust to life on the outside. In December of 2003 I interviewed Avery. I asked him, "Is it harder being out than you thought it would be?"

His answer, "Some days. Some days I think, I might as well go back in there. I wouldn't have to deal with it no more."

When I saw video from Chopper Four flying over the Avery property in fall of 2005, crime tape marking the scene, and talk of murder charges being filed, I thought immediately about that quote. I thought about Avery adjusting to life on the outside. I thought about Avery feeling out of place, and wondering if he'd be better off still in prison. I thought about him saying, "...I might as well go back in there."

Avery to this day proclaims his innocence in the Teresa Halbach murder, and a jury will ultimately decide his fate, perhaps very soon. No matter what comes of this, part of him may actually wish the verdict comes back guilty.

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