What evidence did Making a Murderer leave out?
James R | On 07, Jan 2016
True crime documentary Making a Murderer premiered on Netflix worldwide less than three weeks ago and already, the whole of the Internet seems to be up in arms about the injustices faced by Steven Avery.
A quick recap (with spoilers for those who want to see the series without knowing about the case): The Wisconsin man was arrested in 1985 for a sexual assault crime, but came out fighting in 2003, when he was finally exonerated. He promptly sued Manitowoc County for the wrongful conviction. Halfway through that $36 million civil lawsuit, though, he was accused again of a different crime: murdering Teresa Halbach, a 25-year-old photographer. He protested his innocence of that too.
Nonetheless, in 2007, he was convicted of first-degree murder – despite claims from his defence team that police officers had planted the evidence to frame him.
All of this was caught on camera by filmmakers Moira Demos and Laura Ricciardi, who became aware of Avery’s case in 2005 and have spent the last 10 years piecing together their shocking documentary.
Today, Avery is still serving his life sentence in prison and maintains his innocence – two separate petitions calling for pardons on Change.org and the White House petitions site now have 331,796 and 125,774 signatures respectively. His nephew, Brendan Dassey, who was also convicted of the murder, is serving a life sentence too.
“I think it’s great to have viewers engaged and to have people getting involved in the world. But our hope is the dialogue reaches beyond these cases or beyond Manitowoc County or Wisconsin, for that matter,” Demos told The Wrap, following the show’s success.
“This is an American story. This just happened to be a high-profile case that two filmmakers spent a decade chronicling so that people could see it in depth. But I guarantee you that what you see playing out in this series is playing out in every state in this nation, and there’s a broader dialogue that needs to be happening.”
Others have been less positive about the show, though, with prosecutor Ken Kratz dubbing the whole thing a “conspiracy movie” that omits key facts about Avery’s case.
Manitowoc County Sheriff Robert Hermann also told The Wrap: “In several areas throughout the film, you can see where they cut the tape and manipulated things.
“One place real evident is one of the interviews with Steven Avery in episode 5 — if you watch one video, it jumps from 3:20 to 3:21, then to 3:17, then to 3:22 and then to 3:18.”
Condensing a 10-year project, not to mention a six-week trial, into 10 hours of television? It is inevitable that Demos and Ricciardi would have had to edit their footage and remove certain things. But what evidence has been excluded? And do they change your opinion about Avery’s innocence?
Teresa’s belongings were found near Avery’s house
“Teresa’s phone, camera and [other contents of her purse] were found 20 feet from Avery’s door, burned in his barrel… Two people saw him putting that stuff in there. This isn’t contested. It was all presented as evidence at the jury trial, and the documentary people don’t tell you that,” Kratz tells Maxim.
Avery’s DNA was found under the hood of Halbach’s car
Talking to People, Kratz says that Avery’s DNA was found under the hood of Halbach’s car. The defence attorneys argued that this was taken from a vial of his blood , but Kratz says the DNA was from his sweat.
“How did his DNA get under the hood if Avery never touched her car? Do the cops have a vial of Avery’s sweat?”
Avery had allegedly shown intent
Kratz alleges in that same interview with People that Avery intended to commit the murder and had explicitly told an inmate this during his time in prison – specifically, that he would “build a ‘torture chamber’ so he could rape, torture and kill young women when he was released”.
“He even drew a diagram,” adds Kratz.
Kratz also claims that a different inmate was told by Avery that burning a body was the best way to dispose of it. Halbach’s bones were discovered in the fire pit behind Avery’s home, with the remains “intertwined” with steel remnants from the car tires Avery also allegedly tried to burn – something that Kratz claims disputes the defence’s argument that Halbach was burned elsewhere before the bones were moved to Avery’s home.
It wasn’t possible to plant the bullet
Kratz goes on to argue that a bullet in Avery’s garage could not have been planted by the police, because “ballistics said the bullet found in the garage was fired by Avery’s rifle, which was in a police evidence locker since Nov. 6, 2005… If the cops planted the bullet, how did they get one fired from [Avery’s] gun? This rifle, hanging over Avery’s bed, is the source of the bullet found in the garage, with Teresa’s DNA on it. The bullet had to be fired before Nov. 5.”
Avery “targeted” the victim
Kratz alleges that Avery “targeted” Halbach, who visited his family’s home in October 2005 for a photo shoot for AutoTrader magazine.
“She was creeped out [by him],” Kratz tells People, adding in a separate email: “She said she would not go back because she was scared of him.”
According to the prosecutor, Avery called AutoTrader on the day of Halbach’s murder to ask them to send “that same girl who was here last time”.
“Phone records show three calls from Avery to Teresa’s cell phone on Oct. 31,” says Kratz. “One at 2:24 [p.m.], and one at 2:35 – both calls Avery uses the *67 feature so Teresa doesn’t know it him…both placed before she arrives.”
“Then one last call at 4:35 p.m., without the *67 feature. Avery first believes he can simply say she never showed up…so tries to establish the alibi call after she’s already been there, hence the 4:35 call. She will never answer of course, so he doesn’t need the *67 feature for that last call.”
The filmmakers tried to interview Kratz for the documentary several times, but he refused to participate. He tells Maxim that’s because they refused to show him an earlier version of their film that had been screened at a festival, which made him suspicious of their motives.
“So I thought, well, this looks exactly like… I’m being set up. If I’m not being provided the same opportunity as the defense, if I’m not being shown a finished product that thousands of people had [already] seen. There’s no justification for not showing that to me unless you are trying to ambush me.”
Why, meanwhile, did the directors cut out the evidence Kratz says were not included?
“We tried to choose what we thought was Kratz’s strongest evidence pointing toward Steven’s guilt, the things he talked about at his press conferences, the things that were really damning toward Steven. That’s what we put in,” Demos explains to The Wrap.
“The things I’ve heard listed as things we’ve left out seem much less convincing of guilt than Teresa’s DNA on a bullet or her remains in his backyard.”
“This is coming from a man who argued in closing arguments that reasonable doubts are for innocent people. This is coming from a man who said, ‘So what if the key was planted?'” adds Ricciardi.
“We stand by the project we did. It is thorough. It is accurate. It is fair. That is why it took us 10 years to produce it.”
“Ken Kratz is entitled to his own opinion,” Ricciardi continues, “but he’s not entitled to his own facts. If he’d like to put together a documentary and try to discredit us in some way, he’s welcome to do that.”
All episodes of Making a Murderer are available on Netflix UK, as part of an £9.99 monthly subscription.