ByHolly Emmett, writer at
Film student and full time nerd
Holly Emmett

Making A Murderer is a very popular documentary series on Netflix, that is scheduled for a second season fairly shortly. The series follows the Steven Avery case very thoroughly and has gripped viewers due to it's raw and realistic look at how the justice system failed an innocent man in 1985, causing him to spend 18 years of his life in prison. As season one progresses, we see Steven Avery get arrested once again, with two experienced lawyers by his side, the documentary highlights how Avery is trying to prove his innocence once and for all.

I thoroughly enjoyed watching season one, however I often felt myself questioning whether it was right to film all of the events in court, is it moral to be fully entertained by watching a man's turmoil in prison? And not to mention that it's a documentary, therefore the murder involved is a real murder - Teresa Halbach did really die. Although, the style in which the show is made makes you feel as if it's another How To Get Away With Murder kind of show; a dramatised view of the justice system. You start to fade into what feels like a fictional world - when you know full well that it is all true events. It's an odd viewing experience to say the least.

Steven Avery 1985 mug shot
Steven Avery 1985 mug shot

Making a Murderer: Season One

The season begun in true documentary style; there was some real footage, some pictures, some phone calls, but nothing that made the events seem like reality. Like most documentaries, the beginning of season one was carried by a narrator relaying events for the audience, which made the whole thing feel morally okay to watch, I mean it was just the facts at that point. However, the show turns into a roller coaster of who to believe. You begin trusting that Steven Avery is an innocent man as he is released from serving a false 18 years in prison. He looks happy, joyous and excited to return to his family after his life being destroyed by the Manitowoc County Sheriff department. But then he gets arrested for the second time, and you begin to doubt his innocence. The whole thing feels a lot like a soap opera - with his lawyers finding evidence for his innocence, only to be discredited by the opposing lawyers finding evidence that makes Avery guilty. The end of season one sees less of the documentary style we're all used to; the narration is scrapped, the photos go away and we're left with the whole of Avery's court case footage - almost unedited. It brings the case back to reality and makes me feel even guiltier for enjoying and being entertained by this man's life, or end of life, as he is sentenced for two out of three crimes.

Then more 'evidence' pops up, in the form of Brendan Dassey. Brendan released a statement as an eye witness and co-defendant to the crimes Avery was sentenced to. However, as video footage shows, the interviewers pushed and pushed Dassey so much that he claims he made the whole statement up, just to appease the officers. This led to a whole new court case on whether Dassey was or wasn't involved in the rape and murder of Teresa Halbach.

Avery, after being sentenced to life in prison
Avery, after being sentenced to life in prison

Is This Morally Okay?

This made me think; "Is my enjoyment from this really okay?". I know that it does present facts, and it does expose the faulty justice system, but does it also exploit the Avery family for a bit of light entertainment on a Sunday evening? I'm not sure. I'm not sure if this was intentional, but I found myself hating journalists after watching the program - as they were often portrayed as cold, heart-less animals who are just after a quick news scoop. I didn't think this way before (being a writer myself), but that's the power of the media right? I also found myself vouching for Avery, even though I was uncertain whether he actually WAS innocent or not. And if he wasn't innocent, how does that make me look? That poor girl was murdered and I found myself cheering for the main suspect?! Maybe I'm looking too much into it, but it just didn't feel right. But then you have the opposite argument, the show is encouraging an innocent man to continue fighting for his freedom (if he truly is innocent). It would also expose the corrupt nature of the Manitowoc County Sheriff department, if they did truly set up him a second time. Perhaps season two will shed a little more light on this morally strange show.

Viewer Responses

An article from The Guardian highlights how the show has created a response from fans towards Avery's case. Many fans believe that Avery was framed, and thus have created petitions seeking the exoneration of the defendant. The article states;

Since Netflix released the 10-part series in mid-December, more than 275,000 viewers have signed a petition asking President Obama to overturn Avery’s conviction for the murder of a young photographer called Teresa Halbach in October 2005.

A petition has been made by Michael Seyedian and so far has 530,939 supporters behind it. The petition will be posted to Governor Scott Walker when it has reached its goal, but who knows if the justice system will allow this? Perhaps it will result in a re-trail, but I'm sure that the case will have to be handled by professionals rather than fans. There is also a petition for the release of co-defendant Brendan Dassey, which currently has 92,583 supporters.

The petition for the release of Steven Avery
The petition for the release of Steven Avery

New Evidence, New Lawyer, New Season

During an interview with People Magazine, Avery's new lawyer (Kathleen Zellner) has confirmed that season two will present new evidence that proves Avery's innocence.

One of the key pieces of evidence used in season one was the vial of blood taken by the Manitowoc County Sheriff department. This vial was shown to have been tampered with, and his lawyers at the time stated that two officers of the Manitowoc department could have planted that blood in Teresa's car themselves. This piece of evidence was ignored due to one test being run on it. However, Zellner stated that techonology has advanced since then, and the best way to prove Avery's innocence would be to run tests again. She also states that many pieces of evidence were never tested during his case, therefore she feels that scientific testing is the way forward in clearing Avery's name.

Zellner began investigating Avery's case in January, when a fresh appeal, citing violations of due process rights, was filed at the Wisconsin Supreme Court.

Kathleen to represent Avery in Season 2
Kathleen to represent Avery in Season 2

Will season two bring a new light to this case, or will it just exploit the Avery family further? Let's hope that the documentary wasn't a waste, and that Avery really is innocent of the crimes he's been accused of. This way, I'll feel a tad better for taking the side of the suspected criminal instead of the side of a murdered woman.

Here is the trailer for 'Making A Murderer' Season One;

How Do You Feel About Avery's Case? Is This Program Morally Okay To Watch?


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