There's one person who hasn't binge-watched Making a Murderer, and that is none other than the docuseries' subject himself, Steven Avery. The directors of the controversial Netflix series, Laura Ricciardi and Moira Demos, made the revelation to Us Weekly and other reporters at the streaming network's TCA panel in Pasadena, California, this past Sunday, January 17.
"Steven does not have access to the series," Ricciardi noted. "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 of that motion."
Avery hired a new legal team in early January and subsequently filed an appeal regarding his conviction for the 2005 murder of Teresa Halbach. Demos and Ricciardi told reporters that their intention wasn't necessarily to clear Avery but rather to spotlight the loopholes in the U.S. judicial system.
"I guess it takes a lot to admit your mistakes, and I encourage people working in the justice system to have the humility to do that, if that’s how they feel. But I have not seen much of that happen," Demos said. "I think if you watch this series, I think it’s clear that the American criminal justice system has some serious problems, and it’s urgent that we address them. I don’t think anything in the series is unique to Manitowoc County or Wisconsin. I think this is an American story. We just chose this as a litmus test as one example, but it’s written large across our country."
The series, which was released in mid-December, continues to generate conversation worldwide about whether Avery deserves a retrial for the murder of Halbach. According to both filmmakers, their intention was to present a compelling perspective.
"What we’ve managed to do in the past four weeks is [have] several conversations, telephone conversations, with Steven Avery. And we did record those calls with an eye towards including them in any episodes, should there be any future episodes. But we’ve not returned to Wisconsin in the past four weeks," Ricciardi explained. "We’ve said this before, that this is a documentary. We’re documentary filmmakers. We’re not prosecutors. We’re not defense attorneys. We did not set out to convict or exonerate anyone. We set out to examine the criminal justice system and how it’s functioning today. And it just would have been impossible for us to include every piece of evidence that was submitted to the court or attempted to be submitted to the court. And so we took our cues from the prosecution, what they thought was the most compelling evidence. That’s what we included. Of course, we left out evidence. I mean, there would have been no other way to do it. We were not putting on a trial, but a film."
Some experts in Avery's case, including, notably, HLN hostess Nancy Grace, have come forward to speak out against the validity of the series. Demos said during the panel that the same questions should be applied to certain stories presented in the news.
"It’s interesting that people would expect news reports to contain truth. If you see the news about this series, I would challenge people to do some research about what’s being presented as truth and see whether the documentary or the news report has more veracity," Demos shared. Ricciardi elaborated: "I would say our process here was very much along the lines of what journalists do. We went to people with firsthand knowledge of events. We asked them to speak to things for which they had firsthand knowledge. We accessed primary source materials, a wealth of them. We fact-checked. We had multiple sources for the information in the series. So we did the things that journalists would do."
Multiple key individuals linked to Avery have also expressed their opinions about the verdict, including the former sheriff of Manitowoc County, Ken Petersen, as well as the convicted murderer's ex-fiancées, Jodi Stachowski and Sandra Greenman. While Stachowski told Grace this past week that she believed Avery was the murderer, Greenman proclaimed in a separate interview that he is innocent.
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