*SPOILERS, SPOILERS, SPOILERS*
IF YOU HAVE finished all 10 episodes of Making A Murderer, you’ve probably spent your Saturday googling every one of the main characters, trying to put straight in your brain what exactly happened to Teresa Halbach, Steven Avery and Brendan Dassey.
We’ve taken some of the trouble out of it for you and watched every interview the lawyers, the prosecutors and all the main players, as well as the White House have given in the past week.
The White House
A petition signed by almost 130,000 people on an official US government website received a response from the White House this week. It said:
Since Steven Avery and Brendan Dassey are both state prisoners, the President cannot pardon them. A pardon in this case would need to be issued at the state level by the appropriate authorities.
While this case is out of the Administration’s purview, President Obama is committed to restoring the sense of fairness at the heart of our justice system. That’s why he has granted 184 commutations total - more than the last five presidents combined – and has issued 66 pardons over his time in office.
Richard Mahler, Juror
Mahler is the juror who was excused because of a family emergency after the first day of deliberations. He appears in the documentary and has given a number of interviews since. To Yahoo, he said:
“The evidence that is brought up in this documentary is 98% of the evidence that I saw in court that I had questions about. The other couple of percent like the handcuffs and leg irons that Mr Kratz has talked about didn’t have any of Teresa’s DNA on it. And I disregarded that. There is no significant value to that as being in the documentary.
And there was also the *67 call. I questioned that in call because nobody knows who made that call. Somebody else could have been using his phone. There is a lot of unanswered questions on that.
Speaking to Yahoo News, Kratz was asked about a statement made by the White House. He said:
“I do know that the Governor of the State of Wisconsin has already weighed in on this issue, stating he would not issue a pardon for Mr Avery. The president and his legal team is absolutely correct. This is a State case, not a federal case. The President has no executive authority to issue a pardon.
I was a little disappointed to see the decision seemed to be based on, ‘We don’t have the ability to do it.’ I would have rather had the President to support not only law enforcement and the victim’s family in this case, indicating something like, ‘Even if we could, we wouldn’t’.
“The President made the decision on the basis of what the law indicates. My personal opinion however is that the office could have gone further, commenting on the case or on the evidence. I’m not surprised that they didn’t. But, again, because of the attacks – not only that have been made against law enforcement in the State of Wisconsin but because of the wounds this has reopened for the victim’s family, I really wish that this matter would be put to rest.
“The President and his legal team certainly have the advantage of seeing all the evidence. That is one of the advantages the Netflix viewers were prohibited from this docu-drama. It only shows one side – the defence side. It doesn’t show all the evidence presented to the jury, and certainly not all the evidence that establishes that not only is Mr Avery guilty of the offence for which he has been imprisoned but that there is no basis that there was a conspiracy or that any kind of evidence was planted.”
Presenter: “What evidence is missing?”
There was non-blood DNA found on the hood-latch of the victim’s vehicle. When you understand that the planting defence was about some blood that was being thrown around by law enforcement. There is no explanation for how non-blood DNA. It doesn’t just get on the outside of the victim’s vehicle, but underneath the hood. You have to reach under the hood and manipulate the hood latch.
“Mr Avery – through statements from his nephew Brendan Dassey – hid the SUV after killing Teresa. Mr Dassey indicated that after Steve went under the hood. That was the first time law enforcement knew of that happening. Thereafter the hood-latch was swabbed and tested and Mr Avery’s DNA conclusively connected Mr Avery being underneath the victim’s hood.”
Kratz was then asked about Mr Mahler’s statement…
“First of all, Mr Mahler did not sit through the entire deliberation process. He excused himself after the first day of deliberations and the jury had to start all over again.
Presenter: “But he did sit through the whole trial so he was there to see all the evidence presented?”
“Absolutely. And the handcuffs and leg irons were not a part of the prosecution in this case. The *67 call, it’s interesting that Mr Mahler says, ‘Well, somebody could have been using Mr Avery’s phone.’ Well, absolutely, somebody could have been doing all these things.
Every single piece of evidence when you go down, you can come up with ‘Somebody could have’. And I affectionately call it… individuals sitting at home wearing their tinfoil hats can come up with all kinds of conspiracy theories.
“However, at some point, rather than saying the officers killed this woman or planted her bones or planted the evidence…
Considering the number of officers that needed to be involved if that is all the case. The prosecution had to be involved, the crime lab likely had to be involved in that vast conspiracy. You can either come up with a common sense version that the evidence pointed to or you can continue to pick and choose – cherry pick if you will – one piece of evidence at a time and say, ‘Well, maybe here is what happened.’
“Juries don’t deal with maybes, they deal with facts. This jury heard all of the defence regarding the planting conspiracy theory and they rejected it. They had the opportunity to weight credibility with the witnesses and they found Mr Avery guilty.”
Presenter: “Were you biased against this [Netflix] series before it even came out?”
“Well, I didn’t say I would be impartial. I said it would be unfair. This series, you need to know, was originally a defence advocacy piece. It was a movie that was made, that was completed and presented by this film-makers to the Columbia Film Festival and I asked to see that completed item before being asked to participate… That would show whether these film-makers had a bias or an agenda or what it was they were actually trying to allege in this case. They refused to show that to me.
Their finished product that they had shown thousands of people before, not only did the defence get to see it, the defence participated in preparing it.
“They want to do a cold interview, ‘We don’t want to show you what our slant is or what we are alleging. We wanted to get a sound bite from you because Netflix told us we had to get both sides if we were going to call this a documentary and not an advocacy piece. I wasn’t willing to do that.
“I said, ‘If you don’t show me what thousands of other people have seen’… it doesn’t seem like this is going to be a fair opportunity.”
Presenter: Have you received any threats?
“I have. Our office has received over 3,000 emails – most of them insulting which certainly doesn’t bother me. But what does is when a percentage of these individuals either want to interfere with my business, interfere with my safety and that of my staff and family, when I get emails that suggest, ‘I hope your daughter gets raped and you have to sit and watch that’
That’s the kind of response from the general public… My hope that there is a dialogue that occurs between fair-minded individuals. There are flaws in the criminal justice process. This documentary and the attention it is getting really provides an opportunity to talk about those things in some fair-minded way.
“But if you’re going to threaten me and police officers and if you’r'e going to try and interfere with my law firm for a decision on a case that happened over 10 years ago, I think that is patently unfair.”
Earlier, Kratz added:
The suggestion investigators framed Avery is irresponsible, and inconsistent with a consideration of all the evidence presented.
Strang has made a vast number of appearances across US television stations. Restricted by client-lawyer confidentiality and his own reticence to say too much, he hasn’t come up with anything too illuminating for those after more information but here are some of the questions he has been asked on CBS’s Live at Four:
Why was nobody held accountable for the alleged misconduct of the county sheriff office?
The conduct of other people may have a bearing on the verdict… but a criminal trial doesn’t address other people’s responsibilities or failings. It would have to be a civil trial or administrative proceeding.
Why was the client not put on the stand?
“That’s a really understandable question, obviously. It’s also where we bump into the lawyer-client privilege to which Steven is entitled.
I think what I would want people who don’t work in courtrooms to understand is that it is not the lawyer who decides. It has to, rightly, be the accused decision’s not to testify.
“There are all kinds of reasons innocent people don’t testify: they may be poor public speakers, they may be afraid of speaking publicly, they may not be native English speakers – not talking about Steven or anybody in particular – they may have done other things that will come out and make them look bad if they testify, maybe they have prior convictions – those are admissible if they testify.
There are also reasons why guilty people do testify, you know, they want to put one over on the jury or they are sure they can talk their way out of it.
“It’s a much more complicated decision for the accused – with advice from lawyers – than just, ‘If I didn’t do anything wrong, I’d get up there and tell 12 strangers I didn’t do anything wrong.’ It really is not that easy.”
Why did they allow the evidence from Manitowoc county sheriff’s office after they were told not to search the property?
The Manitowoc county sheriff’s department was the agency that decided it had a conflict and decided it would not participate – or at least told the public that. Now, in fact, almost all the physical evidence either initially was found by a Manitowoc sheriff’s county employee or was initially in their custody: the key, the car… the sheriff’s department was the first to get their after a civilian found the car, the bones, you name it.
“But that was a decision that the department made not to participate. We had no legal right to insist that the evidence was no good simply because of who may have found it.”
How did you overcome the obvious disappointment you felt?
[Laughs] I’ve lost before. It’s not my first rodeo, as the saying goes. Indeed, if you are defending cases, you lose most of the time no matter what bravado you may hear from lawyers.
“It’s hard to lose but, for me, I’d rather make the effort and be in the fight than not join it at all.”
Has it stayed with you?
Yes, it’s one of a number that have stayed with me.”
Did the jury contain the father of a Manitowoc County Sheriff’s deputy and the wife of a county clerk of courts employee? Why was this allowed? And why was it not mentioned in the documentary?
“The jury did have the father of a sheriff’s deputy on it and there was a connection, a relative who was connected to the clerk’s office.
You don’t pick a jury, what you do is remove the potential jurors you most want to remove. But you only get six strikes for no cause at all once people have passed muster as plausibly unbiased and able to serve. You can only remove the six people who you are most concerned about. We exercised our pre-emptorary strikes, as did the State.
Why wasn’t the trial moved to a different county?
“Good question. The answer to that, right or wrong, was that after the 2 March 2006 press conference that the lead prosecutor held at about 3pm, there wasn’t a county – of 72 in Wisconsin – that we could have gone to that wasn’t massively affected by that lurid press conference which only later proved unsupportable by the facts.
But it was there, almost a year before the trial. So we opted to stay with the jury in the county, that was at least familiar with this sheriff’s department and probably most familiar with the history of Mr Avery’s involvement with the sheriff’s department. Really, there’s nowhere we could have gone where we would have had a jury that was a blank slate.
“I’d probably do it over again but the next lawyer might make a different, strategic decision, and she may be just as reasonable as I.”
What is the 80-90% of evidence the prosecutor says is not in the series?
“I don’t think there was anything really significant in the prosecution case that was left out or omitted.
Indeed, the documentary includes some information suggesting guilt that wasn’t presented to the jury, that wasn’t in the evidence.
“When you’re collapsing six weeks of evidence to four or five or six hours on film, you can’t include everything so much defence evidence was left out, but not significant defence evidence – it was at least hinted at. And much less significant prosecution evidence necessarily was left out. Viewers of this documentary will see the key points that both sides made.”
Anonymous has said it will release phone records between Lenk and Colburn. Could they be used to prove innocence of Avery and Brendan?
“It would depend what’s on the record. In and of themselves, they may well be admissible if there was a legal means to get the case back into court. That would probably be arguing that there is new and significant evidence.”
How come the two were convicted of one crime – even though the stories told by prosecution were different in each trial?
That is a very troubling part of these two cases at a systemic level. The formal question from a lawyer’s perspective would be: Does due-process allow the prosecution to present inconsistent theories of guilt in two separate trials?
“I have seen it happen before. The case law, the courts, on this have been disappointingly unclear about what the limits are. The crystallising case to understand the problem would be a death penalty prosecution where there are two defendants charged but it’s clear there is just one shooter.
The pair are entitled to separate trials. Then at trial, the prosecution argues at A’s trial that he was the trigger man and deserves death. Then when defendant B goes to trial, the prosecution argues actually B was the trigger man and deserves death.
“Regardless of what the courts say, if ultimately my profession should be dedicated to the search for the truth, presenting irreconcilable theories to two different citizen juries cannot possibly serve that search for truth.”
Would you do anything different?
“I would have done things differently the very next day if we got do-overs. Eight and a half years later, I can’t think of specific questions or lines or arguments. But I guarantee you, because I’m human and I grow over time and learn (I hope), there are things I’d do differently today.
“That’s one of the burdens of living with a static outcome, a loss. But all other aspects of life being dynamic, you learn and you grow but you don’t get to bring that back to the past.”
You still see Steven?
Yes. Jerry and I both do.
What are his legal options?
“His legal options, realistically, lie in the area of newly discovered evidence that really might raise significant questions about innocence that weren’t presented to his jury in 2007.
If a witness comes forward with a secret they were holding, an advance in scientific testing that might be applied to the blood.”
Has it [the documentary] changed your perspective on the case?
There was a lot of Brendan Dassey’s case that I never saw until I got to this documentary. Much of that was new to me.
“He’s got a very strong defence team and he’s in federal court. That’s pending. They are tragic cases. Yes, as a lawyer, Brendan’s case pulls at you.”
What has the response been?
“It’s been a lot. I’ve appreciated it. Many of the comments I’ve gotten have been extremely thoughtful – whether people agreed or didn’t with the outcome or that the defence did a good job or not… That’s a credit to people watching the documentary.”
[And of the people who have a crush on you?]
My wife finds this very, very hard to believe. I mean, very hard to believe.
Do you think there are other suspects?
It wouldn’t be fair to name names. There were a number of people, I thought, who had the same opportunity as Steven Avery to commit this crime. And, you know, at least the same motive. There never was a motive ascribed to Steven.
What is his take on *67 phone calls that Kratz said he made?
“I don’t remember if it was three, but there was at least one using *67. Steven is someone, not surprisingly, was pretty protective of his privacy.
“I hope people will think more broadly about the systemic failings and weaknesses that the documentary presents. We, across this country, we try people every day. Sometimes, the consequences weren’t what they were here – life in prison or worse- but the consequences have real human impact on victims and defendants. When we don’t have confidence in the workings of the system, we have an obligation to address them with humility and try to work towards a system that makes fewer mistakes.”
How has your life changed?
I’ve gotten hundreds of emails from around the world, calls, just an onslaught of attention to the series, some of which gets directed or focussed on me because you can get my email on the Internet.
At what point did the film-makers approach you?
“They approached us early in 2006 after they approached the Avery family. Jerry and I took direction from the client on this but nonetheless were slow to warm up to the idea. We ultimately did co-operate with the film-makers extensively. Mostly because it was clear they were really bright and thoughtful. I had no idea where the storyline was going, either in real life or how they would perceive or present it.
I also had no idea what the end product would be. I found them to keep their word to be fair.
What are your thoughts now about the final line about hoping this time around he is guilty that is shown in the documentary?
“That’s a selfish hope. I don’t know [if Steven is innocent]. I’ve never known. What I do know is that I’m nowhere near certain that he’s guilty. And that’s why I feel it is a burden, selfishly.
I don’t hope that he is guilty for his sake, or anyone else’s. It’s just I lost his case, I have to sleep at night and get up to work the next morning. So that, in itself, is a selfish hope. I really have deep, lingering doubts more than eight years after the trial whether the system got it right.
What is Steven’s current mood [Strang saw him in prison on 17 December with Jerry Buting]?
“[Steven's mood] is stoic. The Steven Avery that Netflix viewers see in this documentary is Steven Avery. There isn’t a facade. He’s very much as viewers will come to know him. He’s stoic. He processes slowly and, in that sense, yes he is even-keeled in that sense.”
Since the documentary has aired, has it generated any leads?
Yes, it has. Where those go and how fruitful they’ll be, I don’t know. But it has.
Speaking to Fox News in his first interview about the documentary, the lawyer said, “I certainly didn’t expect this [reaction]. I don’t think anyone expected it to be quite this much of a sensation. It’s an excellent documentary, very well done. I don’t think we expected this reaction.”
Buting was away in Rome over Christmas but still said he had contact with people about the case.
“We’re getting a lot of leads from both witnesses and experts. We have been in contact with scientists from all over the world about new, update types of tests that can now be done that weren’t available at the time of the trial. And certainly weren’t available to rebut the FBI’s EDTA result which didn’t come to us until the last week of trial and we had absolutely not chance of re-testing it ourselves.
There may very well be some newly discovered evidence that is coming out of this.
What is Steven’s reaction to the Netflix series?
“He is aware of it but prisons don’t allow Internet feeds, and I doubt they have Netflix. He has not seen it himself. He is certainly aware of it. I saw him shortly before it aired in mid-December. And I know his family is probably overwhelmed as well with the kind of response that has occurred.”
Buting was also drawn on whether Steven is guilty of the crime he is in prison for…
The State’s evidence never really held together for me. There was never a motive for why this gentleman who was about to come into several hundred thousand dollars… there is no reason why someone would do something like this with that kind of future ahead of them.
“…not to mention the very unusual and suspicious circumstances that evidence was found. Almost all of it by even by Manitowoc county sheriff employees even though they were telling the public they had been removed from the case and they weren’t doing anything.
“I have seen it. Obviously, it has more from the defence perspective because we allowed them to interview us but the State’s case is nevertheless presented in the documentary. The strongest parts of the State’s case are there.
In addition, they included a lot of the press conferences that both the prosecution and the defence, and the Halbach family representative were doing every day. Indirectly, the prosecution were being interviewed and put on the film ultimately in the final edits even though they didn’t co-operate. We had no idea if they were going to be co-operating or not.
“We decided to allow them to have some behind-the-scenes access to us. I’d never really seen a programme that showed what it was like to prepare for a trial – to work during the weekend, work at night, work on the witnesses for the next day. We thought it would be educational for the public to see how the criminal justice system work.
I’ve heard some of the criticisms, in particular Mr Kratz, has been saying, inferring again – part of a misinformation campaign – somehow that the State’s case was very strong with all this other evidence. When, frankly, there was not a lot of other evidence that wasn’t represented.
And on the crush?
“Some of that is just, frankly, silly. I’m surprised that any of the crush type of interest. Before the start, I had eight people following me on Twitter. Now I have over 25,000.”
In one sensational interview, Laura Ricciardi told the Today Show: “We were contacted by one of the jurors who sat through Steven Avery’s trial and shared with us their thoughts and told us that they believed that Steven Avery was not proven guilty.
“They believed that Steven Avery was framed by law enforcements and that he deserves a new trial and that if he receives a new trial, in their opinion, it should take place far away from Wisconsin.”
In another television appearance, she dismissed Kratz’s accusations about their show being an advocacy piece:
We were very thorough and, in our opinion, very accurate and very fair.
Moria Demoss added: “Our question going in was never about guilt or innocence. Or trying to solve this crime. It was really an exploration into the system.”
The Other Jurors
Another juror, Diane Free, told the Associated Press, “I’m comfortable with the verdict we reached. The thing on Netflix was a movie, not a documentary.”
When the AP reporter asked her to elaborate, she said, “I have to ask, please don’t call me again,” before ending the call.
Teresa Halbach’s family have stayed out of the spotlight since the release of Making a Murderer but did put out this statement:
People are creating entertainment out of our story and saddened that people are profiting from their loss.
Read: A Wisconsin police department is having to fend off a social media storm over Making a Murderer