Making a Murderer: the case for and against Avery

Jodi Stachowski. Photo: Netflix

Jodi Stachowski. Photo: Netflix

Before Making a Murderer became a Netflix sensation, Steven Avery was already a household name in his home state, Wisconsin.

Having spent 18 years in jail after being wrongfully convicted of rape before being cleared by DNA evidence, Mr Avery planned to take legal action against his local county police department.

But while he was in the process of suing Manitowoc County, former sheriff Thomas Kocourek, and former district attorney Denis Vogel for $36 million in damages, Mr Avery became the prime suspect in the murder of a 25-year-old photographer.

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He was convicted in 2007 and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. To this day, he maintains his innocence.

In the show, Mr Avery and his defence team allege he was framed by the police, and that his learning-disabled nephew Brendan Dassey was forced into a false confession that implicated the both of them.

After hearing Mr Avery’s side of the story, millions of Netflix viewers signed petitions calling for him to be exonerated. But now, after a number of explosive interviews, the case against Mr Avery is slowly mounting.

‘Very one-sided’

Teresa Halbach. Photo: Netflix

Teresa Halbach. Photo: Netflix

Despite the documentary series’ massive success, there are still some people who aren’t fans of Making a Murderer: the family of murder victim Teresa Halbach.

For the Halbachs, the series has meant painfully reliving the 2005 death of 25-year-old Teresa.

“It’s terrible,” Teresa’s aunt Kay Giordana told People magazine this month of the Netflix hit. “I can’t believe this came out. It is really unfortunate.”

Teresa’s cousin-in-law Jeremy Fournier added: “It is so very one-sided.

“It seems like there are some shenanigans by the police in there from what I hear and read about, and I can see where people are getting their opinion, but they are only getting one side of the story.”

Ms Giordana said she had no doubt Mr Avery was guilty and was confident the right people felt the same way.

“I was very upset, but I know the right people know the truth,” she said.

“It is not even close to what really happened. Everybody has their own side of a story. That is the Avery family’s side of the story. I wouldn’t expect it to be different. They think he is innocent.

“He is 100 percent guilty. No doubt about it,” she added.

‘We hope he doesn’t get out because of this’

Some of Mr Avery’s neighbours in the town of Two Rivers, Wisconsin, have also come out in favour of the guilty verdict.

Jodi Stachowski. Photo: Netflix

Jodi Stachowski. Photo: Netflix

“We hope he doesn’t get out because of this,” a neighbour who watched the series told People.

“If you don’t live here, I can see how you would view it and think there are questions. But those of us who live here know that he’s guilty.

“We feel safer with him in jail. He should be locked up and throw away the key.”

Another added: “I tell people, ‘If you think he’s innocent, why don’t you have him move in with you and your wife and kids?'”

‘He’s a monster’

In a damning interview with American legal commentary show Nancy Grace, Mr Avery’s former fiancee Jodi Stachowski (one of his biggest supporters on the show) renounced his innocence.

“[I want people to know] the truth,” she said on January 13. “What a monster he is. He’s not innocent.”

Ms Stachowski claimed Mr Avery was physically abusive and had the attitude that “all b***es owe him” because of his original wrongful conviction for the sexual assault of Penny Beernsten.

“I ate two boxes of rat poison just so I could go the hospital … and get away from him, and ask them to get the police to help me.”

Ms Stachowski claimed she lied during her appearances on the show because she was fearful Mr Avery would “make her pay”.

She said she believed Mr Avery was capable of murder because of threats she claims he made against her, her family and a friend.

“He’s sick,” she said.

Nancy Grace. Photo: Getty

Nancy Grace. Photo: Getty

‘I hope you’re sitting down’

Nancy Grace, host of the show Nancy Grace, has also maintained Mr Avery’s guilt, speaking about her longtime involvement in the case in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter.

Ms Grace first spoke with Mr Avery soon after Ms Halbach’s 2005 death.

When asked why she was so confident of his guilt, Ms Grace responded: “I hope you’re sitting down because this might take a while.”

Ms Grace explained her belief was based on “DNA evidence, mixed with the logistics, the timeline and common sense”.

“Steven Avery never took the stand,” she said. “He knew he could not endure cross-examination so he never took the stand.

“So what supposedly happened when Teresa Halbach left? How could someone get on his property to plant all this evidence? Did he enlist the phone company to make up the fact that he hid his ID to lure her over? And why would he call her to say, ‘Hey, you never showed up?’

“What innocent reason could excuse that nefarious behavior? Why would he be covering his tracks if he had not killed her? Why would Dassey give a statement like that? No one was beating him, threatening him, disallowing him to leave. Nothing like that. He even implicated himself. Steven Avery killed Teresa Halbach. It’s just that simple.”

Brendan Dassey’s confession

Brendan Dassey in court in 2007. Photo: Netflix

Brendan Dassey in court in 2007. Photo: Netflix

The Dassey confession in question occurred when he was just 16 years old, without a defence lawyer present.

Dassey, who has an IQ below 70, confessed to raping, killing and dismembering Ms Halbach with Mr Avery.

Recorded on May 13, 2006, at the Calumet County Sheriff’s Office, his statement was recently provided to The Hollywood Reporter by Ms Grace.

You can read the full statement here.

The directors’ side

The show’s directors, Laura Ricciardi and Moira Demos, have responded to the various allegations that have emerged as a result of their documentary.

“I can’t say why Jodi [Stachowski] is saying what she’s saying,” Ms Ricciardi said. “When we filmed with her, that’s what she was saying to us. It was an accurate feeling at the time.”

Of Ms Stachowski’s interview on Nancy Grace, Ms Ricciardi said: “We showed Steven, warts and all.

“Just because someone comes forward with a narrative doesn’t make it accurate, doesn’t make it true.”

The director also defended their decision to omit evidence.

“We’re not prosecutors, we’re not defence attorneys, we do not set out to convict or exonerate anyone,” she said.

“We set out to examine the criminal justice system and how it’s functioning today. It would have been impossible for us to include every piece of evidence submitted to the court. 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. There would have been no other way of doing it. We were not putting on a trial, but a film. Of what was omitted, the question is: was it really significant? The secret is no.”

Do Ms Ricciardi and Ms Demos believe Mr Avery is innocent?

Sort of.

“There are so many questions on the reliability of this prosecution that you have to doubt the resulting decisions,” Ms Ricciardi said.

-with Rose Donohoe


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