In late 2015, Netflix started a phenomenon when its true crime docuseries, “Making a Murderer,” sparked debate all over the country.
The true-crime series follows the trials of Steven Avery and Brendan Dassey, a pair of Manitowoc County, Wisconsin residents who were accused of murdering and mutilating the body of 25-year-old photographer Teresa Halbach in 2005. The series focused on the prosecution’s lack of incriminating evidence, a confession that many believe was coerced, and a police department that possibly had something against the accused.
The series was a huge hit, and people immediately became engrossed in the case which began to make national headlines.
Since the release of “Making a Murderer” in 2015, Netflix has released other addictive docuseries including “The Keepers,” “The Staircase,” and “Wild Wild Country.”
If you don’t have time to watch the entire first season of “Making a Murderer” before you dive into part two – or if you need a refresher (it’s been a while!) – here’s everything you need to know about the first season, and what’s happened in between seasons one and two.
Here’s 10 things you need to know about “Making a Murderer”:
The Avery family wasn’t well-regarded in the community, and Steven Avery didn’t exactly have a clean history.
The Avery family didn’t mix well with their community in Wisconsin. They kept to themselves and lived close to each other or on their family property, where they ran an auto-salvage yard.
Avery’s record before the rape arrest wasn’t clean. It included a few burglaries and cruelty to an animal – he doused a cat with gasoline and placed it in a fire. On “Making a Murderer,” Avery, who’s revealed to have an IQ of 70, says that it was all a result of hanging with the wrong people.
Steven Avery served 18 years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit.
Steven Avery returned to his family in 2003 after being exonerated for the 1985 rape and assault of a woman, Penny Beerntsen, in his home county of Manitowoc County, Wisconsin. New DNA evidence proved that he was innocent. Avery served 18 years in prison for the crime.
The series suggests that Avery was framed for the crime, because of the county’s hatred toward the Avery family, because he was already a troublemaker, and because the county just wanted to wrap up the case.
Avery sued Manitowoc County for wrongful conviction.
After Avery was freed in 2003, an investigation found no wrongdoing on the part of Manitowoc County’s police in his conviction.
So Avery filed a $US36 million lawsuit against the county and officers who took part in his wrongful conviction, and went through a civil case.
On October 31, 2005, 25 year-old Teresa Halbach went missing.
While Avery was going through the civil case with the county, photographer Teresa Halbach went missing.
She was last seen on the Avery property, where she was taking pictures for AutoTrade magazine.
Avery was arrested and interrogated without an attorney present. He didn’t confess to the crime.
Searches of the Avery property found incriminating evidence. Halbach’s burned bones were found in a fire pit, her car was partially hidden in the yard, there were blood stains on the car’s interior, and Halbach’s car keys were in Avery’s bedroom.
As the case against him in the murder of Halbach built, Avery settled the civil suit for $US400,000.
Avery used the money from his civil suit to hire a great defence team, who built evidence to prove that Avery was framed by the police.
Avery used the $US400,000 earned from the civil suit to hire a strong defence team in Dean Strang and Jerry Buting. Strang and Buting basically became heartthrobs that audiences loved to watch at the time of the show’s release.
Strang and Buting gathered evidence to support a theory that Avery was framed by local police for the murder. They argued that local police wanted to frame Avery for the murder because of the civil suit which was costing the county a lot of money and because of the community’s animosity toward the Avery family. Avery’s parents, who are featured prominently on the series, believe he’s innocent and support the defence’s theory.
Halbach’s car keys was probably the most compelling evidence the defence had. After multiple searches of Avery’s home, the keys were suddenly found in a place that had already been searched, leading to the idea that they could have been planted. The keys only contained Avery’s DNA, and not Halbach’s.
Brendan Dassey, Steven Avery’s nephew, was interrogated and accused of helping Avery murder Halbach.
Avery said that he couldn’t have committed the murder on the proposed timeline, because he was with his learning disabled 16-year-old nephew and neighbour, Brendan Dassey.
Dassey was interrogated without an attorney for hours. His attorney allowed this to happen. And the interrogation is uncomfortable to watch. Dassey does not appear to understand what is going on or what the consequences of what he says could be. At one point, he asks if he’ll be allowed to go back to school because he has to finish a project.
After many hours of interrogation, Dassey confessed to helping Avery commit the crime. Dassey would change his story multiple times, which led many to believe that it was a false confession, and that police took advantage of Dassey’s learning disability.
Avery and Dassey were put on trial separately. And both were found guilty.
Dassey didn’t testify in his uncle’s trial. But prosecutor Ken Kratz held a televised press conference, where he told the story that was extracted from Dassey’s interrogation. Kratz told it in gory detail, and it instantly shocked the public. Unlike the defence, Kratz didn’t cooperate with the producers for interviews. He later criticised “Making a Murderer,” saying it left out key of evidence.
The jury returned with a guilty verdict for Avery in the first count of the murder of Teresa Halbach, a not-guilty verdict in the second count of the mutilation of Halbach’s corpse, and a guilty verdict in the third count for possession of a firearm. The initial jury vote had seven jurors saying not guilty.
During his trial, Dassey said that he made up everything that he told the officers during the interrogations. He was found guilty as well. Attorney Steven Drizin, who specialises in false confessions, tried to get Dassey’s case appealed but was rejected by the Wisconsin Supreme Court.
Prosecutor Ken Kratz resigned in 2010 after a sexting scandal.
In October 2009, Kratz was prosecuting a domestic violence case against the boyfriend of the victim.
She filed a police report in Kaukauna, Wisconsin, alleging that Kratz had sent her 30 sexually coercive text messages.
During an investigation, two more women came forward accusing Kratz of harassing and intimidating them.
Kratz resigned in 2010.
Since the documentary aired, Avery and Dassey’s cases have made national headlines. Both men have tried to get their sentences appealed, but are still in prison.
Since part one dropped on Netflix in 2015, Steven Avery has been trying to prove his innocence. In 2017, Avery, now 55, was denied a request for a new trial by a Wisconsin judge. Avery continues to serve a life sentence. Avery’s new lawyer, Kathleen Zellner, who’s fighting to overturn Avery’s conviction, will be prominently featured on the new season.
Brendan Dassey, now 28, tried to appeal but was denied by the Supreme Court.His lawyers believe he was coerced into giving his confession, citing that police took advantage of his age and his disabilities.
“Making a Murderer Part Two” drops on Netflix Friday, October 19.
A lot has happened since the show made its debut in 2015, and a lot of questions were left unanswered. It will be interesting to see what happens on “Making a Murderer Part Two,” which dives into Kathleen Turner’s fight to overturn Avery’s conviction, and the psychology behind false confessions, which is what a lot of people think Dassey did under pressure.
Zellner, a Chicago-area attorney, has helped exonerate 19 men. She offered to take on Avery’s case soon after “Making a Murderer” premiered in December 2015.
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