Are You Watching ‘Making a Murderer’?

Making a Murderer Steven Avery

Have you been watching Making a Murderer, the new Netflix documentary series? (Here’s the trailer.) Holy smokes. It feels like everyone we know binge-watched it over the holidays or has it at the top of their queue. It’s immersive, thought-provoking, and, by the end, baffling — everything you want out of a winter TV series. Whether you’ve seen Making a Murderer yet or not, here are 10 facts about the true-crime saga that we found fascinating. (The first five are 100% spoiler-free!)…

1. Two awesome women made it. Filmmakers and partners Moira Demos and Laura Ricciardi were grad students in 2005 when they saw a front-page article about Steven Avery in the New York Times. “I found it riveting and kept elbowing poor Moira and saying, ‘I cannot believe this,'” Ricciardi recalled. They decided to pursue Avery’s story for a documentary and eventually moved from New York to Wisconsin to dive deeper into the project, which ultimately required 800 hours of videotape and took 10 years to complete. To pay the bills, Demos worked as a lighting electrician on TV and movie sets, and Ricciardi, who was a lawyer before film school, did legal work.

2. Avery’s lawyers are melting hearts everywhere. Dean Strang and Jerome Buting, who brilliantly and compassionately represented Steven Avery at trial, have emerged as everyone’s unlikely crushes. They’re the subjects of Internet memes and articles in GQ and Vogue illustrated like Valentines. (Before the series aired, Buting had a modest 20 followers on Twitter. He now has over 25,000.)

3. It was scored by an Oscar winner. By the time you’ve watched all 10 hours of the series, its haunting theme music lingers in your head. It was composed by Gustavo Santaolalla, an Argentine musician who won Best Original Score at the Academy Awards two years in a row, for Brokeback Mountain and Babel.

4. The filmmakers are undecided. Ricciardi and Demos have not said whether or not they think Avery is guilty or innocent. “The main question at the heart of the series is how do we as a society respond when injustice is exposed,” said Ricciardi in an interview with Time. “Moira and I had no stake in the outcome of the trial. We had no interest in whether or not Steven Avery was innocent. We were there simply to document the story and look at the Halbach case not in isolation but in the context of 30 years. What we were really looking at was the American criminal justice system and has there been any meaningful change since 1985 for this person.”

5. Penny Beernsten has spoken out. Beernsten, the woman who accused Steven Avery of assault 1985, declined to participate in Making a Murderer; but she has said that it represented her story accurately. This week, she wrote a powerful essay about what it felt like to learn, 18 years later, that Avery was not her attacker, how he once asked her to buy him a house and what she thinks about him today. “My emotions regarding Steven Avery are complicated,” she says.

Read below this line if you’ve watched the show (or don’t mind a potential spoiler!)…

6. Steven Avery hasn’t seen it. So far, the subject of Making a Murderer, who convinced his family to participate in the series, has not watched it himself. Prisoners don’t have access to Netflix, and one of Avery’s lawyers, Dean Strang, has said even a DVD version is prohibited. “He’s certainly hearing from his family about the response they are getting,” Strang said. “But as long as he is in prison, he will never see it.”

7. The case could reopen. Steven Avery and his nephew, Brenden Dassey, are both serving life sentences for the 2005 murder of Teresa Halbach, and their lawyers have exhausted their appeals. But Avery’s lawyers occasionally visit him in prison and await possible leads. “We are still working for free for him informally, and I suspect it’s going to get more formal soon here,” Strang told reporters recently. Similarly, Brenden Dassey’s legal team has filed a petition requesting a judge to re-examine his case. That ruling could come any day.

8. The filmmakers didn’t meet Avery. Demos and Ricciardi were denied visitation with Steven Avery, which is why viewers only hear his voice through phone calls. Some of the most wrenching and seemingly private moments in the film are conversations between Avery and Dassey and their mothers. It turns out that every prison phone call is recorded and, with permission, Demos and Ricciardi were able to make riveting use out of them.

9. A juror has come forward. After Netflix released Making a Murderer last month, one of the 2006 Avery jurors contacted the filmmakers to say they regretted the verdict and that the jurors had waffled to the end. “They told us that they believe Steven Avery was not proven guilty, they believe that Steven was framed by law enforcement,” Ricciardi said on TV this week. “They believe he deserves a new trial, and if he receives a new trial, in their opinion it should take place far away from Wisconsin.”

10. The series isn’t exhaustive. Even with 10 hours at their disposal, Demos and Ricciardi couldn’t depict every piece of evidence presented during the five-week trial of Steven Avery. They say they focused on the key details, but the prosecutor, Ken Kratz, has accused the directors of slanting the story and the Internet is exploding with lists of additional evidence. Details on the cutting room floor include Avery’s calls to Halbach on the day of her disappearance and additional physical evidence. Whether these things represent proof of Avery’s guilt is still unclear.

What do you think? If you’ve watched Making a Murderer, we’d love to hear your take. If you haven’t, will you?

Making a Murderer

Above: Filmmakers Laura Ricciardi, left, and Moira Demos, right, with cinematographer Iris Ng, center.

P.S. A fictional mystery podcast and the best documentary we saw last year.

(Top photo by Dan Powers/Associated Press; bottom photo via Netflix)

  1. Lulu says...

    Hey all,
    I am an undergraduate student at the University of North Texas and am working on a research project based around Making a Murderer. We are asking for opinions on the show, theories about who was involved, and the general fairness of all of the trials.
    We also plan on investigating relationships between jury bias, punitive attitudes, view of our justice system, and the manners in which we gather information in modern society.
    This research study is COMPLETELY anonymous. We will not ask for your name, email, or any other identifiable information about you.
    If you would like to help with the project, please take and share our survey! It should only take about 15-20 minutes to complete!
    Thank you!

  2. Lora says...

    This is such a sad case of our justice system failing us once again… Steven Avery is innocent by all accounts. He was framed and I believe his nephew being of a slow mind was coaxed by the killer which I think is the brother or the ex boyfriend of Theresa. Nothing adds up.. from the phone calls during the so called murder from Jodi to Steven while she was in jail to Brendan having an imagination that the detectives used and WHY would the detectives push so hard on this mentally challenged teen unless they are covering for someone. And who was the woman that called in and said she found the Toyota and seemed happy? Another set up? Burned body parts that any lab should be able to tell if they were brought there from somewhere else and if no evidence of blood of Teresa’s is in Steven’s home or garage then why are they not ruling out everyone who knew her like the exboyfriend? The judges are being paid off no doubt to get a conviction of someone who has fame… look at the timeline of events.. As soon as it looks favorable for Steven, something else comes up magically? That whole community should be called MatiHELL because I think alot of people, friends, relatives of the sheriffs and detectives, judges etc are in cohoots with this and they will burn for their wrongful doings…

  3. Young Cash says...

    Teresa was killed by a man named Edward Edwards. Steven and Brenden will be home soon. #TheEnd

  4. Wow! Sat down to watch a little of it and ending up watching the whole thing in on setting. I will never live in Wisconsin! Not to say it can’t happen elsewhere but it was so blatant there-the injustice is appalling. I really don’t know where to start except to say that I so wish I had been on those juries to knock some sense into some of them. There were items of evidence that were so preposterous that it seemed like if it didn’t make sense they just discarded it and went on so they could put enough pieces together to convict. Terrible shady investigation! Huge cover up! Sad and disgusting!

  5. Dawn says...

    They were both convicted of murdering her but Dassey said it was in the bedroom and in the Avery trial, the prosecutor said it happened in the garage. Makes no sense at all. I think it was the ex boyfriend !!

    • Young Cash says...

      it wasn’t

  6. Carol A Ferrell says...

    I watched this in two days. I was riveted and I had to watch my blood pressure as it went up watching this. (I’m 77.) Best documentary I have ever seen. I will never live in Wisconsin if that is the kind of justice you get there. I believe Avery is innocent and a very nice man. And I loved the parents. I hope and pray he gets out and the courts finally give him justice. It really makes me suspect our system. They were not looking for the truth. So sad. Im going to pray for him and Brendan.

  7. Eva says...

    I am soooooooo disappointed in the Manitowoc County shame on you and your investigation!!! Where is the blood?? Corrupt is the only word I see when I here Manitowoc County and the investigation!! What those investigators did to Bobby Dassey is unbelievable, I hope they all burn in hell!!!

  8. Eva says...

    Why did they not investigate the ex boyfriend?? He looked so suspicious! I am soooooooo disappointed in the Manitowoc County shame on you and your investigation!!! Where is the blood?? Corrupt is the only word I see when I here Manitowoc County and the investigation!! What those investigators did to Bobby Dassey is unbelievable, I hope they all burn in hell!!!

    • Carol A Ferrell says...

      Yes, I felt the same thing. They should investigate him. Come on Wisconson, do the right thing!

  9. Laurie says...

    I am so sad for Steven Avery The prosecutor should lose
    his liscence. His remarks to the press after the verdict says it all. Alluding to the fact of the type of man Steven Avery is? A man who served 18 years for a rape he did not commit? Are prosecutors only interested in winning? Such a sad commentary on out justice system. I think he is innocent

  10. Lois Bradford says...

    I am so sad about the unfair judicial system. The corrupt police should be in jail. They were grandstanding throughout the trial. They looked ridiculous!

    I loved Mr. Avery’s lawyers, brilliant, caring and amazing. The case should have been won by them!

    It just proves anyone can be in his shoes if enough corrupt police have it in for you! What a sham!

  11. Nicole says...

    I have a question for any lawyers out there. It seems crazy unreasonable to me that the motions for appeal or new trial were presided by the SAME judges who presided over the original trials (Willis and Fox, I think). Is that standard practice? When Steven Avery went back to Willis again I just kept thinking how Willis had already called him the most dangerous man to ever enter that courtroom and how obviously he thought he was guilty and that there was no way Steven would be granted anything from Willis. Is it even legal?

    As a side note, someone mentioned this already about juries actually being fair, but I sat on a jury for a medical malpractice trial and was APPALLED by what some of my fellow jurors thought and said. One actually said that as a Christian woman, she just couldn’t say no to giving the patient’s family money from the doctors because they really needed it. Not okay and not the jury’s job!

  12. Sam Conover says...

    It’s so funny that other people suspected the brother because I did as well. He was so ready to convict Avery and Dassey yet zero emotion and so ridiculously vague about breaking the passcode on her phone. I’m annoyed at why the Manitowok County officers were eager to say they called another county to investigate yet were knee deep on the crime scene. Unless I’m missing something why was the cousin able to find the vehicle stupidly parked on a 40 acre junk yard so fast. Honestly, I’m not buying any of it. If I were on the jury, there would be no way I could convict either one of those men beyond a shadow of a doubt with the evidence shown in this documentary.

    • Monica Barba says...

      What do you think of the ex-boyfriend? He sounded odd at the initial search for Theresa, stressing that if anyone finds anything they shouldn’t touch it. Also, he had access to her voicemail as well, and could very well have heard the Steven’s reply to her initial call confirming the photo shoot, and decided that this was the perfect opportunity to kill her and then plant evidence to frame Steven. It sounds like they had had a long relationship that was ending, and he was probably the one harassing her with those phone calls that she ignored. Why didn’t the police even question him and treat him like a suspect? He would be the obvious person to question, yet they did not.

  13. COlady63 says...

    Was there DNA testing done on the done fragments found? Speak with any funeral director and you will find out that a bonfire does not burn hot enough to break down the bone (in the manner in which we have seen/heard about in this case. Why was all the evidences found after the initial investigation accepted? It was contaminated and questionable after months and people coming and going. Why was the Manitowoc police even doing inside these buildings? When they were only supposed to be assisisting with supplies. The person who conducted the analyses from the blood collected, why was she not asked how many times she has lied or covered up contaminated evidence before.

  14. Heather says...

    Teresa’s brother did it! Episode 2, when she was first reported missing, he stated as the began to search for her, “the grieving process can take a long time”. Why is he grieving so soon, and why does he have no emotions. As her brother, I’m sure she knew her schedule, where she was going and that Teresa didn’t enjoy visiting the Avery property. Avery is not intellectual enough to clean up a murder that thoroughly, but he isn’t dumb enough to leave her car on the property and make it stand out by covering it with branches, unlike the rest of the cars.
    Dassey, that’s just sad.

    • Ha! I secretly suspected Halbach’s brother throughout the series, as well! He also hacked into her voicemail immediately (I believe the day she visited the Avery’s)… why so suspicious?

      The series is 100% worth watching though even if just to see how life can be in a different part of the country.