The creators of Netflix’s docu-series Making A Murderer say the media in 2016 is repeating its own cycle of treatment of the documentary’s subject Steven Avery, who was convicted for the murder of Teresa Halbach in 2007.
Filmmakers Laura Ricciardi and Moira Demos took on reporters’ questions during the Making a Murderer panel during Netflix’s leg of the Television Critics Association winter press tour in Pasadena. The conversation took a heated turn when reporters urged the filmmakers to address criticism levied against the series that it downplayed incidents of violence and abuse in Avery’s past — particularly, recently-surfaced reports of Avery’s alleged domestic abuse against both his ex-fiancee and ex-wife.
“I think the question would be whether charges were brought in those situations and what was really going on on those nights,” said Demos. “If you can find the research and find facts about what actually happened on those nights, that would be something you could write about.”
“I think what we’re seeing now is actually history repeating itself,” said Ricciardi. “It’s now on a national scale that the media are demonizing this man in order to prove his guilt. What we did was we documented the Halbach case as it was unfolding. Whatever [allegations against Avery] you’re referencing now never came into that process at all. So it wasn’t relevant to our process. We looked at the history here.”
Mainstream pundits like Nancy Grace have devoted hours to examining Avery’s guilt and criticizing the documentary for painting an incomplete portrait of the man, who was exonerated after wrongfully serving 18 years in prison on a rape charge and just two years later was accused of the murder of Halbach.
Ricciardi stressed that she and Demos “showed Steven Avery, warts and all. We showed all of his priors and we included information to the extent we could accurately fact-check it and had multiple sources for it. Just because someone comes forth with a narrative for it, their interpretation of something doesn’t make it factual, doesn’t make it the truth.”
When a reporter pressed again about why Avery’s past police records (including a bout of animal violence) were not given heavier focus in Making a Murderer, Demos responded, “What I would ask you is, how is any of that relevant to this individual’s right to a fair trial?”
Ricciardi added, “We did not take up Steven Avery’s biography. What we set out to do here was to question, essentially, a check-up on the American criminal justice system, to see whether it was any better at delivering truth and justice in 2005 than it was in 1985.”
Avery hasn’t been allowed to watch the documentary, Ricciardi also revealed. “He asked the warden and his social worker whether he would be able to see it and his request was denied. When we spoke to him recently, his focus was mainly on his case. At the time we last spoke with him, he was representing himself. He had recently lost a motion and was working on his own appeal.” (As of Jan. 9, Avery had new representation.)
And what about a second season? Both filmmakers told reporters that in the four weeks since Making a Murderer launched on Netflix (and became a sleeper social media hit), they’ve had several telephone conversations with Avery and recorded those calls “with an eye towards including them in any episodes, should there be any future episodes.”
“This story is ongoing,” said Demos. “These cases are open. But it’s real life. You don’t know what’s going to happen. So we are ready to follow these if there are significant developments. We will be there.”
They haven’t yet returned to Wisconsin.