Netflix’s Making a Murderer is the kind of must-see TV that production bigwigs dream about. Watercooler conversations once dominated by celebrities and trash TV are being replaced by true crime. Did Steven Avery do it? What was Brendan Dassey's involvement? If not them, who? And why in the hell is everyone ignoring how goddamn corrupt the Manitowoc County Police Department clearly is?
The sometimes-bleak always riveting true-crime series explores Steven's exoneration of a rape for which he spent 18 years in prison, only to become embroiled in the grisly murder of Teresa Halbach in 2005. His nephew Brendan, then just 16, was also convicted of murder for assisting him. Here’s what you didn’t see on the show.
1. Penny Beerntsen was the only person who apologised to Steven over his wrongful rape conviction
Steven was put in prison because of testimony rape victim Penny Beerntsen gave, and it’s something that’s still devastating her to this day. But there’s one thing that haunts her more than most. “One of the things that really troubled me,” Penny says, “is that I was one of the only people who apologized to Steve. It would have been nice if the prosecutor and sheriff had said, ‘Actually, we all got it wrong.’ I felt like I was the only one taking any responsibility.”
2. Steven has two new hot-shot attorneys
The final episode of the gripping drama saw Steven studying up in the law library because the court wouldn’t appoint him a new lawyer. Well, whether it was cash from the documentary or a pro-bono change of heart, Steven now has two gun lawyers on his side. Top Chicago attorney Kathleen Zellner, who specialises in overturning wrongful convictions, leads his high-powered team. Her record has seen 16 men exonerated for crimes they didn’t commit. His other attorney, Tricia Bushnell, is a legal director of the Midwest Innocence Project who once worked for its Wisconsin chapter. “The Zellner Law Firm is looking forward to adding Mr. Avery to its long list of wrongful conviction exonerations,” Kathleen’s recent statement read.
— Kathleen Zellner (@ZellnerLaw) January 8, 2016
3. New Evidence has come to light since the documentary aired
Kathleen says there’s “new evidence” to present, and that she’s “confident” Avery’s murder conviction will be overturned. Not only that, Steven’s original trial lawyer Dean Strang says a “mass” of potential new evidence has emerged since the show aired. “We are investigating them [the leads]. We’ve been contacted by scientists from all over the world with areas of expertise that may prove useful."
4. The Innocence Project IS looking into Steven’s case
The end of the documentary saw Steven mention he’d written to the Innocence Project a few times and they’d denied his requests for assistance. The release of the doco has seen the organisation release a statement saying that one of their members is now looking into the case.
5. Steven Avery’s trial lawyer Dean Strang Is a sex symbol
Yep, he was the gun of the courtroom, the lawyer with the heart of gold and one half of the legal team trying desperately to free Steven. Since Making a Murderer concluded, Dean has become an internet sensation and even an unlikely sex symbol.
As any good sex symbol would, he laughs it off (one suspects with a glint of his teeth and a casual flick of his hair). “It’s just silly. It’ll pass… I’m not on social media, but I’m hearing about it because friends are teasing me.” Dean has been compared to Atticus Finch because of his compassion, decency and propensity to be moved mere thought of injustice. “It’s very humbling,” he confesses. “I can’t be Atticus Finch, so I have to satisfy myself by trying to be the best Dean Strang I can be.”
6. LEN KACHINSKY HAS CANCER (STILL WON’T ACCEPT ANY BLAME)
Yep, the lawyer who worked against his client Brendan Dassey instead of defending him has leukaemia. Reports say he continues to work for Sisson and Kachinsky law offices, but since Making A Murderer aired, they’ve taken his name and bio off their site due to extremely negative press. Their Facebook page has also been inundated with negative comments. Len is still defending his involvement in Brendan’s case, maintaining it wasn’t his fault the then-16-year-old was convicted.
7. Ken Kratz's firm got glitter-bombed, among other attacks
In what will come as a surprise to exactly nobody, the backlash against smug district attorney Ken Kratz has been swift and fairly brutal. He was forced to resign from his DA position when all the sexting salaciousness came to the fore. But his license was only briefly suspended and he went back to practicing law. He also admitted to abusing prescription drugs and filed for bankruptcy protection.
Recently, his firm’s Yelp page has been inundated with one-star reviews and negative comments, as well as his office receiving death threats. He also says his office received a dreaded “glitter bomb” that caused “significant damage to our office equipment and things like that”.
8. The filmmakers were only graduate film students when they first started on the case
Making a Murderer remains the only directorial credit on Moira Demos and Laura Ricciardi’s IMDB page (although we’re sure the offers will be rolling in now). The girls were mere graduate film students when they first read an article about Steven’s arrest and became fascinated with the case. They jumped in a rental car, headed to Manitowoc County and were originally only planning on spending a week there. As the case wore on they moved into rental accommodation in town and wrote a letter to Steven asking if he'd mind if they interviewed his family; he gave them his blessing from behind bars. Then, JUST as they were about to come home, Ken Kratz held the bombshell press conference that documented Brendan Dassey’s “confession” and they knew they were going to be there a while.
They spent a decade sifting through 700 hours of footage and even they still wrestle with the question “did he do it?”
9. Petitions calling for Steven’s release have hundreds of thousands of signatures
Petitions have travelled the globe garnering hundreds of thousands of signatures calling for Steven and Brendan’s release from prison. A White House petition for a Presidential Pardon received more than 100,000 signatures, the required number to force a response from Barack Obama. The President noted that unfortunately the conviction was state-based, and thus could not be overturned at a federal level.
10. There was evidence that wasn’t included in the Netflix series
Viewers who jumped online after the finale would have been quick to note there was key evidence missing from the show that doesn’t look too good for Steven. His “mistreating an animal” charge was actually him pouring gasoline onto the cat and burning it, not simply throwing it in a fire. His sweat DNA was found under the hood of Teresa’s car. He purchased leg irons and handcuffs (the same tools Brendan said Steven used to tie Teresa up) three weeks before Teresa went missing. Her phone and bag were found 20 feet from Steven’s door in another burn bin. And the bullet that was found in the garage with Teresa’s DNA was concluded by ballistics to have been from the same type of rifle that Steven had hanging over his bed. There are other points but these were the main take-aways. There are, however, many people who have theories to account for this new evidence that still paint Steven as innocent.
Filmmakers claim the omissions weren’t intended to sway anyone, merely that they needed to pick the important points to ensure the documentary didn’t unfold in real-time.
11. Steven hasn’t seen the documentary
It’s gripped the world, but the hit true-crime series hasn’t been seen by its main subject. He’s had hundreds of letters from viewers, however, and is hopeful something good will come of this. But if Steven Avery remains in prison, chances are he will never see the show that affected so many people.