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Netflix goes Serial with new documentary series Making a Murderer

The crime series will feature the story of Steven Avery.

NETFLIX HAS TAKEN a leaf out of hugely popular podcast series Serial’s book and delved into the story of a murder for its latest documentary.

The crime series Making a Murderer will debut on Netflix on 18 December this year.

Directors Laura Ricciardi and Moira Demos were inspired by a 2005 newspaper article to document the story of Steven Avery, a man thrown in jail for a sexual assault who was later exonerated – only to find himself back in jail for murder.

For the past decade, Ricciardi and Demos have been following this real-life thriller, documenting how Avery, an outsider from the wrong side of the tracks, was convicted and later exonerated of the sexual assault.

Source: WLUK-TV FOX 11/YouTube

Making a Murderer “examines allegations of police and prosecutorial misconduct, evidence tampering and witness coercion”. The filmmakers look at what went wrong in the first case, and also “question whether scientific advances and legislative reforms over the past three decades have gotten us any closer to delivering truth and justice in the system”.

Netflix said:

[Avery's] release triggered major criminal justice reform legislation, and he filed a lawsuit that threatened to expose corruption in local law enforcement and award him millions of dollars. But in the midst of his very public civil case, he suddenly finds himself the prime suspect in a grisly new crime.
The series takes viewers inside a riveting, high-stakes criminal case where reputation is everything and things are never as they appear.

The series follows the second investigation and ensuing trial of Avery, and includes archival materials and interviews with those closest to him.

What happened to Avery

  • Note: Avery’s case is documented heavily online – if you want to avoid knowing anything, don’t read below this line…

In 1985, Avery was 22 when he was identified as the attacker of Penny Ann Beernsten, who was sexually assaulted by a man while out running along the Lake Michigan shoreline.

Beernsten identified him as her attacker, and a hair recovered from a shirt belonging to Avery was identified as being consistent with Beernsten’s hair, according to a state forensic examiner.

Avery had 16 alibi witnesses. He said he was in a store in Green Bay, Wisconsin, near the time of the attack, and it emerged that he would have had to “leave the scene of the attack, walk a mile to the nearest parking area, drive home, load his family into the car, and drive 45 miles in just over an hour”, according to the Innocence Project.

He was eventually sentenced to 32 years in prison. Lawyers for the Wisconsin Innocence Project got a court order for DNA testing of hairs recovered from the victim at the time of the crime, and a hair was linked to a convicted felon who looked like Avery.

That felon, Gregory Allen, was already serving a prison term for a sexual assault in Green Bay.

Beernsten later told her story to the Forgiveness Project, saying:

At the live line-up I looked at eight men and again picked out Steve Avery. I had selected his photo, and his image had become enmeshed with my memory of the real assailant. In my mind, Steve was the only person in those photos and in that line-up. As it turned out, my actual assailant was in neither.

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Release and murder

Source: Court Trials/YouTube

Avery was released in 2003. In October 2005, photographer Teresa Halbach (25) disappeared. Her car was found at the Avery Auto Salvage Yard five days later.

Avery became a suspect, and was arrested that November. He did not testify in court, saying he did not need to as he was innocent. He protested that he was being framed as he had a civil case pending over his previous wrongful conviction.

During the trial, the directors had to petition the court to avoid having to turn over their footage.

“There are an unbelievable number of twists and turns in the story arc of Making a Murderer, it feels like it has to be fictional,” said Lisa Nishimura, Netflix VP of Original Documentary Programming.

The directors said that their partnership with Netflix has enabled them to tell their story “in a way that wouldn’t have been possible anywhere else”. They added:

If we had not been there to witness these events we would have trouble believing they actually occurred.

Read: Some joker finally brought Netflix and chill to the company’s headquarters>

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