The creators of the popular Netflix docuseries “Making A Murderer” that focuses on Steven Avery, who is serving a life sentence in the murder of Teresa Halbach, after serving 18 years in prison for a sexual assault he didn’t commit, answered questions about the docuseries on Sunday, January 17th, at the “Television Critics Association” winter previews.
According to TVGuide.com, series’ directors Laura Ricciardi and Moira Demos stood by the series’ accuracy and their choices for the series amid criticism that key evidence was omitted. They even suggested there could be more episodes in the future.
The 10-part Netflix docuseries was released on December 18th.
Avery was convicted in 1985 in the rape of jogger Penny Beerntsen on a beach near her home in Manitowoc, Wisconsin. After serving 18 years in prison he was exonerated based on DNA evidence connecting the attack to another man.
Avery was released in 2003 and filed a lawsuit against Manitowoc County for wrongful conviction and imprisonment. Two years later, he was arrested in the death of Teresa Halbach, a young photographer whose charred remains were found on his family’s auto salvage yard.
Just last week, Avery filed two motions alleging violations of due process rights in his prosecution for the 2005 rape and murder of Halbach.
Avery and his nephew Brendan Dassey are each serving life sentences for her death — Avery without the possibility of parole.
Avery said he wants to be released from prison while the Wisconsin Court of Appeals considers his latest challenge to his 2007 murder conviction.
The Netflix series has renewed interest in Avery’s ongoing legal troubles, leading to calls for his release and a petition seeking a presidential pardon. It was declined because the President cannot pardon someone convicted of a state criminal offense. The only person who can, Governor Scott Walker, has said he won’t do so.
Wisconsin prosecutors and law enforcement officials have accused the documentary’s creators of cherry-picking the evidence to cast it in a light favorable to Avery.
The docuseries shows how prosecutors laid out their case: Halbach’s Toyota RAV4 (which had blood in it, including Avery’s) was found on the Avery family’s lot. Tissue and bone fragments that matched Halbach’s DNA profile were found outside Avery’s mobile home. Avery’s then-16-year-old nephew, Brendan Dassey, confessed to authorities that he had assisted his uncle in raping and killing her.
The docuseries shows how the defense made the case that officers investigating Avery had a conflict of interest and stayed involved after they were ordered to hand over the investigation to a neighboring county. When key pieces of evidence were found by Manitowoc officers involved in Avery’s first case, the defense implied the evidence could have been planted. The defense suggested Avery was framed for the murder of Teresa Halbach amid the pending multi-million lawsuit he filed against Manitowoc County following his exoneration.
Ricciardi and Demos told reporters at the “Television Critics Association” winter previews they set out to make the documentary in order to get questions answered, but in the process, they only ended up with more questions. They said they hope viewers, after watching the docuseries, become more interested in and passionate about our criminal justice system.
The creators said Avery himself has not seen the “Making A Murderer” docuseries that focuses on him. There is no Netflix in prison — and Avery’s request to see the docuseries was denied.
Responding to criticism that key evidence was omitted from the docuseries, Demos said the following, according to TV Guide: “It would have been impossible for us to submit every piece of evidence. Of course we left out evidence.”
Ricciardi and Demos also responded to new comments from Steven Avery’s ex-fiancee, who told HLN’s “Nancy Grace” in an exclusive interview last week that Steven Avery is “a monster” — and that she believes he is guilty in the death of Teresa Halbach — even telling Nancy Gracy Avery once tried to kill her.
In the docuseries, Jodi Stachowski is portrayed as a loving, supportive partner.
The creators said they cannot speak to what Jodi Stachowski is saying now.
“When we filmed nine years ago, this is an accurate portrayal of what she was saying at the time,” Ricciardi said, according to TV Guide.
Could there someday be new “Making A Murderer” episodes? The creators spoke about that possibility as well. They said they’ve been in contact with Avery, and that there are recorded phone calls that could be part of a future series. The creators said Avery’s story is ongoing, and they’re following the developments.
As for whether Steven Avery is guilty or innocent — Ricciardi and Demos aren’t commenting. They say their Netflix series isn’t an advocacy piece, and that they “are not taking sides.”
Steven Avery has obtained new legal counsel since the Netflix docuseries was released. Chicago lawyer Kathleen Zellner on Friday, January 8th announced she is teaming up with the Midwest Innocence Project. The Law Firm of Kathleen T. Zellner and Associates has assumed representation of Avery in all of his pending criminal matters.
As for Brendan Dassey, there is currently a federal habeas petition alleging that Dassey’s constitutional rights were violated and it requests that his conviction be vacated.
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