'Making a Murderer' Inspires Fierce Fan Debate Over Its Subject's Innocence

making a murdererHas any true crime documentary throughout history stirred up quite as much controversy as the 10-part Netflix series Making a Murderer? The show is an in-depth look into the case of Wisconsin man Steven Avery, who was released from prison in 2003 after serving time for a sexual assault he didn't commit (only to be arrested and convicted for an unrelated murder in 2005), and it's convinced thousands of viewers of Avery's innocence

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Avery is currently serving life in prison without possibility of parole for the murder of young photographer Teresa Halbach. And his severely learning-disabled nephew Brendan Dassey is serving 40 years with possibility of parole for being a party to the murder of Halbach (as well as for sexual assault and mutilating a corpse). 

As Making a Murderer shows, however, the evidence against Avery was largely inconclusive and -- as one of the most popular viewer theories alleges -- possibly tampered with by the Manitowoc County Sheriff's Office (specifically, officers Sgt. Andrew Colborn and Lt. James Lenk, who were both named in Avery's $36 million civil against the police department for wrongful conviction around the time of Halbach's murder). In addition, some believe the confession obtained from Brendan Dassey shouldn't have been admissable, as the videotaped interrogations suggest that the then 16-year-old didn't fully understand the questions or what was happening to him. Also suspicious? The district attorney involved in the case, Ken Kratz, has since resigned from his position over accusations of sexual harrassment. (Kratz, perhaps unsurprisingly, has accused Making a Murderer filmmakers of omitting evidence from their documentary.)

If you haven't watched the show, you should know that the above facts are just the tip of the possible miscarriage-of-justice iceberg; I personally came away from the series completely disgusted with the system and fully convinced that Avery is in jail for a crime he didn't commit. And I'm not alone: More than 100,000 people have signed a Change.org petition for the pardon of Avery and Dassey; more than 17,000 have signed a similar Whitehouse.org petition. 

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Of course, none of that necessarily guarantees that Avery or Dassey will go free, but the incredible amount of attention this case is getting at least makes it more likely that the truth that many believe will be uncovered at some point. Because the most chilling unanswered question at this point is, if Avery didn't kill Teresa Halbach, who did -- and where is this person now? Many, many murders go unsolved forever, and this might very well turn out to be one of them, but locking two people up for decades for a crime they didn't commit won't bring Halbech back. Perhaps Making a Murderer will at least result in an appeal for Avery and Dassey, as Serial did for Adnan Sayed. And at some point, hopefully justice will be served.

 

Image via Netflix

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