Monday 28 May 2018

Making a Murderer directors say 'arguing Steven Avery's innocence was never what this series was about'

Mugshots: Steven Avery, the subject of the Netflix show 'Making a Murderer', pictured in police photos in the 1980s
Mugshots: Steven Avery, the subject of the Netflix show 'Making a Murderer', pictured in police photos in the 1980s
Aoife Kelly

Aoife Kelly

The writers and directors of Making a Murderer say they are not arguing for Steven Avery's innocence.


Avery was wrongly convicted of a crime in 1985 and served 18 years before he proved his innocence and was released.

He then sued local law enforcement for his wrongful conviction and as that lawsuit was moving forward he was charged with murder by that same county in which he lived and was suing.

Netflix's documentary series Making a Murder charts Avery's story from 1985 to present day and exposes failings in the criminal justice system, prompting several petitions from the public calling for Avery's release.

However, Laura Ricciardi and Moira Demos have said that they are not arguing for Avery's innocence.

Speaking to Paul McLoone on the Anton Savage Show on Today FM, they said they simply saw the case as a "window through which to look at the American criminal justice system".

"Here was a man failed by the system in the mid 80s and 20 years later was stepping back into it," said Moira.  "The question in 2005 [when they started filming] was has the criminal justice system made significant profess or was it just not that different to the system of 1985?"

Laura added, "There's been some backlash in the United States where people are thinking we've taken up Steven Avery's case and we're interested in advocating or arguing his innocence but that was never what this series was about.

"We were in it to ask bigger questions and to show essentially the state of the system."

Ken Kratz, who acted as prosecutor in the trials of Steven Avery and Brendan Dassey
Ken Kratz, who acted as prosecutor in the trials of Steven Avery and Brendan Dassey

Laura also hit back at claims by former Wisconsin state prosecutor Ken Kratz that they ignored "key" evidence.

"We absolutely disagree," she said, "None of the evidence he listed in his famous email to the press of his strongest evidence was never during this two year prosecution, the evidence that he was pointing top as the proof of his case.

"We based what we put in the series on his press conferences, his opening statement, his closing statement. We wanted to put the State's strongest evidence and then have the defence come back with its strongest defence.

"We're storytellers so that sort of conflict was in our interest, to make the State's case as strong as we can make it."

Making A Murderer: Jodi Stachowski and ex-fiance Steven Avery. Credit: Netflix
Making A Murderer: Jodi Stachowski and ex-fiance Steven Avery. Credit: Netflix

It has also recently been revealed that back in 2005 Avery filed documents claiming his brothers Charles and Earl may have have been responsible for the murder of photographer Teresa Halbach, the crime for which he is currently serving time.

Laura explains, "His defence attorneys were arguing to the judge that hey should be allowed to essentially name names because their concern was, if we take this trial and do a good job of persuading the jury that Steven Avery was not responsible for Teresa Halbach's death the jury might struggle to acquit because they will want to know if it wasn't Steven then who was it?

"So the defence made an argument to the judge that there were other people who had the same opportunity, the same motive, which was essentially none, to kill Teresa Halbach."

The defence listed several names but the judge ordered that the motion be filed under seal to protect the reputations of those people and that document was not unsealed until after Avery was found guilty.

How the real-life murder story took over television 

However, Laura feels it's "unfortunate" that the document has now come to light.

"I think it's just driving what Moira and I consider to be a distraction now in terms of a response," said Laura.

"It's still driving a quest for answers and the truth about who might have killed Teresa Halback and really that was the job of law enforcement.  They were the ones trying to investigate this case and they had an opportunity to investigate it fairly and thoroughly and in our opinion that did not happen.

"So it has fallen on amateur sleuths and average citizens to of course care about these things but they're really not in a position I would think to do the job the investigators should have done back in 2005."

The most recent development in the saga is the fact that Avery's ex-fiance Jodi Stachowski, who features in the documentary, has now revealed she thinks Avery is guilty and claims he was violent and abusive throughout their relationship.

Making A Murderer: Steven Avery's ex brands him a 'monster' and says 'he's guilty' 

"We based our series on what we found in the public record and tried to fill all our characters in all their complexities, flaws and all," said Laura of the developments.

"One of the themes of the series is that we're all human beings, we all have flaws, we're all under pressure, we all decide to do good but make bad choices sometimes and this is a muddy area, there's no black and white.  It's an array of greys here."

She added, "When I read the petitions, at least one of them claims Steven's due process rights were violated and if that is in fact true and that's what people feel, the solution to that is Steven gets a new trial./  Every accused has a right to a fair trial."

The directors revealed that Avery now has a new lawyer and they do not know if they will be able to speak to him while he has new representation.

"We're interested in continuing to pursue this story should there be significant developments and if we think a new episode or more is warranted then we will continue to follow the story."

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