Monday 25 June 2018

'We don't know what to make of it' - Making a Murderer directors on Jerry Buting and Dean Strang's Vicar Street appearances

Moira Demos (l) and Laura Ricciardi (r) with Ryan Tubridy
Moira Demos (l) and Laura Ricciardi (r) with Ryan Tubridy
Aoife Kelly

Aoife Kelly

The directors of hit Netflix documentary series Making a Murderer have said they "don't know what to make of" the news that the defence lawyers featured in the series are doing public appearances.

Jerry Buting and Dean Strang have seen their profiles go stellar since they appeared in the documentary defending Steven Avery during his trial for the murder of photographer Teresa Halbach.

While the trial took place in Wisconsin, the series has garnered fans all over the world, and both Strang and Buting visited Ireland recently to appear on the Ray D'Arcy Show and Newstalk respectively.

The duo will return in September for appearances at Vicar Street on September 23 and 24 (which has already sold out).

Dean Strang
Dean Strang

The documentary makers Moira Demos and Laura Ricciardi were asked by Ryan Tubridy on RTE Radio 1 this morning what they thought about the appearances.

"We don't know what to make of it," said Moira.  "It's fascinating that they have become these huge figures.  We were just documenting defense attorneys doing their job... and they stood out in contrast to Len [Kratz, prosecutor] who wasn't doing his job. 

"But I think the most they can add in the series is to add dignity to this important job of defense attorneys.  Often people don't respect them."

Tubridy asked them if they were "a little uncomfortable with" the appearances and Laura replied, "No, I think it's an opportunity to continue to shine a light on the failings of they American criminal justice system but also hopefully to focus on the potential for improvement and how that can come about.

Trial: Lawyer Jerome Buting and murder accused Avery, right, listen to closing arguments in court in 2007
Trial: Lawyer Jerome Buting and murder accused Avery, right, listen to closing arguments in court in 2007

"The primary question we get from viewers is 'how could this happen?' and now that people know that these sorts of things can happen I think it's important for people to try to engage and want to plug in and do what they can to help change those things."

Even though the series has become a global phenomenon, Steven Avery, who is currently serving a life sentence, has not yet seen it.

"Prison is full of rules," says Moira, "They said no to his request to watch the series.  [They don't have access to] the internet.  Their answer was, 'if we said yes to you we'd have to say yes to everyone'."

The series has been criticised for focusing mainly on Steven Avery and his defence and less so on Teresa Halbach and the prosecution.

Making a Murderer: Teresa Halbach photographed beside her car.
Making a Murderer: Teresa Halbach photographed beside her car.

However, Moira asserts that they approached all parties with the same requests regarding the documentary.

"We sought universal access," reveals Laura.  "We sent the same sort of letter to the Halbach family.  We had coffee with Mike Halbach to discuss why we had chosen this case.

"Ultimately they decided that they did not want to participate in the film and we respected that. It's hard to even imagine what they were going through so we absolutely respected their wishes.

"We reached out several times to the prosecuting attorneys, investigators to invite them to participate. They actually didn't even respond to those letters."

Although it took them a decade to make Making a Murderer, both Moira and Laura are open to filming more episodes.

"It's certainly a possibility that there could be additional episodes," says Moira, "It's real life so we don't know what will happen and there will have to be significant developments in the story to warrant it, but we're open to it.

Moira and Laura are in Dublin to address students at an event in UCD on Tuesday April 5.

The filmmakers will receive the James Joyce Award from UCD Literary and Historical Society for outstanding success in their field, following in the footsteps of previous award recipients Archbishop Desmond Tutu, JK Rowling, and speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow.

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