“Making a Murderer,” from directors Laura Ricciardi and Moira Demos, is the product of a decade-long investigation into the life of Steven Avery. Avery, wrongly convicted in the 1985 rape of Penny Beerntsen—who describes the assault in this Radiolab segment from 2013—served more than 18 years in a Wisconsin prison before being exonerated by DNA evidence in 2003.
What piqued Ricciardi and Demos’ interest in the case, however, was a newspaper article from 2005. That Halloween, as Wisconsin lawmakers considered the Avery Bill, a set of reforms to eyewitness identification, interrogation, and DNA evidence storage procedures, 25-year-old photographer Teresa Halbach was murdered at Avery’s salvage yard. Convicted in Halbach’s killing in 2007, Avery was the first person in the U.S. exonerated by DNA evidence to be subsequently found guilty of murder.
Considering allegations of police and prosecutorial misconduct, evidence tampering, and witness coercion “Making a Murderer” examines what went wrong in the first case while pursuing the troubling moral questions raised by the latter—as suggested by this 2006 column from the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, in which the writer responds to a female filmmaker seeking information about Avery: “She is nuts if she thinks there is a movie in this depraved tale.”
“Making a Murderer” joins Netflix’s ever-expanding slate of documentary programming, including the Oscar-nominated films “The Square” and “Virunga,” as well as “What Happened, Miss Simone?,” “Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom,” and “Chef’s Table.