They Tried to Make Me a Murderer

After watching "Making a Murderer," the acclaimed Netflix documentary series, Ramon Vasquez knew exactly what was happening as he watched detectives build their case around Steven Avery. In 2008, Vasquez sat in San Jose's main jail for months after being arrested for a murder he did not commit. From personal experience, he says the elements that cause wrongful arrest and convictions hightlighted in Making a Murderer, is more common than the public acknowledges.

In 2008 I was arrested for a murder I didn't commit. I spent eight months in jail trying to win my freedom. So when I heard about "Making a Murderer" I was very much intrigued, and as I watched the case play out on screen, I couldn’t help but see similarities in how I got wronged by the system.

Watching Steven Avery get convicted of sexual assault in his first case on the victim’s eyewitness account really hit home for me. He was later released due to DNA testing after serving an eighteen year sentence. In my case, I had the brother of the victim point me out in a lineup that I never should have been in. In both Avery and my case we were put into a subjective and questionable lineup tactic. Put in these stacked situations, the victims or eyewitnesses don't have a choice. They don't know that they are being set up by the detectives. Let me give you an example. Lets say you were at a scene of a crime and briefly saw someone you think is white commit a crime. During a lineup, the police show you five Latinos and one white guy – you are going to pick the white guy, regardless.

That's one of the ways the detectives abuse their power. In my case, that carefully orchestrated lineup – intended by the detectives to get the witness to arrive at the conclusion they wanted – really hurt me. The witness initially said the person they saw had a tattoo on the right side of their neck, and I was the only guy in the line up with a tattoo on the right side of my neck. Now you tell me how that's fair? Shit, I never had a chance.

           Ramon outside of County Jail, he remembers which window he used to peer out while he was arrested.

When I was arrested and questioned for hours, I was told many things by the detectives. I watched the good cop, bad cop scenario up close and personal. For me, the interrogation was the story of David vs. Goliath – I, an inexperienced and innocent person versus two trained detectives in their field of practice. Watching the "Making of a Murderer," when I saw  Avery's nephew change his statement so many times I couldn't help but see myself in him. Simply being scared and wanting to go home will make you want say anything that is approving to the detectives. In hindsight, I know that’s what they did to me back then. They eventually got me to admit that I was in the parking lot where the murder happened. Was I in that parking lot? Yes. I was, and I told them that, but it wasn't on the day of the crime! Did that matter to them? Hell no, because now I put myself at the scene – regardless if it was not on the right date.

What I know from my case and what was reaffirmed watching "Making of a Murderer," is that detectives find themselves starting off looking for the truth, but then get hung up on a theory. Are they trying to frame people? I don't think so, but if they think you’re guilty, then you are guilty. They spend all their time trying to prove you’re guilty rather than finding the truth. That's how I feel about what happened in my case, and that's what appears to have happened with Avery. The system is broken because the accused have to prove their innocence. I don't know why we still say we are “innocent until proven guilty” because that's the biggest lie I've had to live through. 

When I was locked up, I was staying up late every night trying to figure out how I could prove my innocence. After giving my DNA and repeatedly asking for a polygraph test, I finally got one. I took the polygraph test and I passed. The man that took the test even said, “I believe you’re innocent” and he didn't know me from a can of paint. When my lawyer found out I passed, he came to visit me and told me he was going have me take the polygraph test again. When I asked him why, he said because you’re innocent and this is going to slam it home. I took it again and passed for a second time.

After months of being locked up, the day before my preliminary hearing, I was released due to "lack of evidence.” Lack of evidence? What about being innocent, or better yet, you fuc**** up! They didn't have any of my DNA. I was not a gang member and it was an alleged gang related case. I wasn't a friend or associate of the two co-defendants. My cell phone never set off any towers around that area on the day of the murder. Did I get an apology? Nope. Do I expect one? Nope. Months after my release I went back and won a rare factual finding of innocence by the court – but that ultimately did not give me much closure.

The fall out from this event in my life has had a huge effect on me. I lost the job that I had for eight years. My trust in the police is gone. I have nightmares all the time. My credit score was ruined. I had to start all over and had to do a lot of fighting. Today, I am back to where I was, but it took years of repair. The one thing that I can't fix is public opinion. Some people that know about what happened to me say, "I bet you learned your lesson.” Honestly, I don't have the time or energy to tell them everything about what happened and why. There are many people that I have come across that believe if you are arrested, then you must have done something to put yourself there. 

I want people who watch "Making a Murderer" to know the basic elements that can cause a wrongful arrest are more common than the public often acknowledges. The police are not perfect, they are human. From what the show points to, and what I know through my own experience, they are trained to prove your guilt, not your innocence. The system is broken and has failed us as a society. In my case, I always compare it to the analogy "it takes a village to raise a child" and in my case, it took a village to prove my innocence. 

         Ramon when he returned home with his wife and kids

Related Media:

Everyday Ideation: How Families Use 'Cumulative Intelligence' to Take on the Criminal Justice System

"De-Bug the System" - The Shirt and the People who Inspired the Message 

In Michigan Petitioning Against the Government Lands You a Prison Sentence

This article is part of the categories: Law & Justice  / San Jose//South Bay 
This article is part of the tags: Albert Cobarrubias Justice Project  / Criminal Justice  / Justice  / Making a Murderer  / Steven Avery  / Wrongfully Accused 


This story hits so close to home. Reading this brings up so many emotions. My son was wrongfully convicted, and was given a sentence of 15 to Life. So when I read that Ramon Vasquez got to finally go home to his family it feels bitter/sweet.... Bitter that he, and his family had to live this nightmare, and especially that there were no apologies, nor were there any words to acknowledge his innocence. Although, the Sweetest part is he is out of that hell hole they call a jail.. yet he will never be free from the false accusations and imprisonment. Sadly there are so many more stories like Ramon's. I applaud him for sharing his story and letting others know they are not alone. Never give up the fight for your Freedom. My son certainly will not. We are currently in the appeal process, and we will continue to stand by my son and bring him home.

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