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The directors of Making a Murderer spent 10 years making their docuseries in relative anonymity, but now they’re taking their turn in the hot seat.
Laura Ricciardi and Moira Demos were on the defensive during their time in front of the Television Critics Association on Sunday as they were asked repeated and pointed questions about the evidence they presented in the 10-part series, which premiered Dec. 18 on Netflix.
On the topic of whether they left key evidence out of Making a Murderer, Ricciardi responded that their intention was not to weigh in on whether convicted murderer Steven Avery is guilty. “This is a documentary,” she said. “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.”
She added that “it would have been impossible for us to include every piece of evidence” that was presented during Avery’s court trial. “Of course we left out evidence, there would have been no other way to do it. We’re not putting on a trial, but a film. The question is, of what was omitted was it really significant? The answer is no.”
Making a Murderer became a conversation starter for Netflix over the holidays, capturing the attention of true crime fans who have followed shows like The Jinx and the podcast Serial over the last year. The documentary explores the murder trial of Avery, who was convicted in 2005 for the murder of Teresa Halbach. His conviction came just two years after DNA evidence exonerated him from a sexual assault charge, for which he served 18 years in prison.
The media has been swept up in the Avery case since the series’ release, presenting pieces of evidence not discussed in the Netflix series and interviewing the subjects of the docuseries.
One such interview came from Avery’s ex-fiancée, Jodi Stachowski, where she called him physically abusive and released that she believes he is guilty. “I can’t say why Jodi is saying what she is in the media today,” said Demos, adding that the series gives “an accurate portrayal of what she was saying and feeling” when she was interviewed nine years ago.
Demos added that not all media reports should be taken at face value. “I would challenge people to do some research about what is being presented as truth,” she said.
Ricciardi defended the research that she and Demos conducted over the last decade. “Our process here was along the lines of what journalists do,” she explained, noting that they spoke to people with first-hand knowledge of the events of the case, accessed primary source materials and fact-checked their work. “We did the things that journalists would do.”
When asked about the response to the series, Demos said she “knew it was a controversial project” and was expecting the debate that resulted. “I think it’s clear that people were very affected by the series and had an urge to try to do something,” she later added, referencing the petitions that have been circulating calling for Avery’s release. But she also noted that people can respond by taking their jury summons seriously and voting in the upcoming election.
The directors were also asked to discuss Avery’s response to the series. Although they’ve had phone conversations with him since the series was released, they said he has not been able to watch it himself. “Steven does not have access to the series,” said Ricciardi. “He asked the warden and his social worker whether he’d be able to see it and his request was denied.”
Pressed for their opinions about Avery’s trial, Ricciardi responded: “My main takeaway is that each and every one of us is entitled to justice. Each and every accused, despite how they’ve been characterized or demonized, is entitled to justice.”
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