A 10-episode Netflix documentary series has a lot of people interested in a convicted murderer from Wisconsin.
"Making a Murderer" details the case of Steven Avery – a man who was sentenced to life in prison without parole in the 2005 murder of 25-year-old Teresa Halbach.
The series, which debuted Dec. 18 and quickly became a hit (watch the first episode on YouTube), goes over Avery's 2007 trial and questions the circumstances that led to his arrest and conviction. It suggests Avery was framed by law enforcement in Manitowoc County, Wisconsin, and that his nephew Brendan Dassey – who was also convicted in connection with the crime – was manipulated by his defense team into confessing.
Avery's case garnered a lot of attention when he was arrested for Halbach's murder – he had recently filed a $36 million civil lawsuit against Manitowoc County for wrongful conviction. In 2003, Avery was exonerated after spending 18 years behind bars for a sexual assault he didn't commit, according to the Innocence Project, which worked on Avery's previous case.
That case led Wisconsin state legislators to pass the Avery Bill to prevent wrongful convictions. It was signed into law days before Avery was arrested for Halbach's murder. (The bill was renamed out of respect for Halbach's family.)
Reactions to the series
"Making a Murderer" is getting mostly positive reviews from news outlets, the Journal Sentinel reported, but the people involved in prosecuting Avery can't say the same.
Many viewers have taken to social media to share their outrage over the way the criminal justice system handled Avery's case, which has led to online petitions to free him and assistance from the hacker group Anonymous, which claims it will release documents in connection with the case, Business Insider says
District Attorney Ken Kratz, who prosecuted Avery, has even received death threats, according to FOX 11, and viewers have been leaving critical Yelp reviews for him. (There's even a warning when you go to Kratz's Yelp page stating the website is working to clean up reviews that appear to be motivated by news coverage, rather than a person's consumer experience with the business.)
Kratz has said filmmakers didn't give him a chance to respond to questions raised about him in the series, FOX 11 said, although producers dispute that.
Others have pointed out the series is rather one-sided, with Michael Griesbach, an assistant prosecutor in Manitowoc County who wasn't involved in either of Avery's cases, telling the Journal Sentinel the series raises a lot of good questions – but from the defense perspective.
The Innocence Project addressed the Netflix series and Avery's case on its website, saying "Making a Murderer" is helping "shine a spotlight on some of the problems that plague the criminal justice system, like false confessions and government misconduct."
The organization notes a member of the Innocent Network is looking into some aspects of Avery's case.
Avery and his nephew have both lost state appeals to reverse their convictions. The Chicago Tribune looks at where their cases stand – and what options they have left.