Netflix series Making a Murderer is clearly striking a chord with viewers.
A Change.org petition
seeking to free Steven Avery, who was convicted by a jury in Wisconsin in 2007 of murdering photographer Teresa Halbach, now has more than 264,000 signatures.
"After viewing [Making a Murderer], I am outraged with the injustices which have been allowed to compound and left unchecked in the case of Steven Avery of Manitowoc County in Wisconsin, U.S.A." the petitioner's creator, Michael Seyedian, writes. "Avery's unconstitutional mistreatment at the hands of corrupt local law enforcement is completely unacceptable and is an abomination of due process. Steven Avery should be exonerated at once by pardon, and the Manitowoc County officials complicit in his two false imprisonments should be held accountable to the highest extent of the U.S. criminal and civil justice systems."
Netflix's Making a Murderer series focuses on 53-year-old Avery -- who was imprisoned for 18 years on charges of sexual assault and attempted murder, but was later exonerated by DNA evidence -- only to be subsequently accused of the murder of Halbach two years later. In June 2007, he was sentenced to life in prison along with his nephew, Brendan Dassey.
Before the 2007 murder case, Avery was suing local officials for $36 million over the wrongful conviction. Soon after Avery filed the lawsuit, he was arrested for Halbach's death in the same county as his original false conviction. Avery’s lawyers claim their client was framed for Halbach’s murder because of his lawsuit.
And now filmmakers Laura Ricciardi and Moira Demos say they have even more compelling evidence that Avery's case was compromised. During an appearance on the Today
show on Tuesday, Ricciardi and Demos said a juror from Avery's murder case has reached out to them to say they believe Avery was framed by law enforcement.
"[The juror] told us that they believe Steven Avery was not proven guilty," Ricciardi said, though the filmmakers add that they have not been able to verify the claims because they have not spoken to other jurors. "They believe Steven was framed by law enforcement and that he deserves a new trial, and if he receives a new trial, in their opinion it should take place far away from Wisconsin."
The juror alleges there was behind-the-scenes vote-trading going on during the trial, and the verdicts on each count were "a compromise."
"That was the actual word the juror used and went on to describe the jurors ultimately trading votes in the jury room and explicitly discussing, 'If you vote guilty on this count, I will vote not guilty on this count,'" Ricciardi said.
"They told us really that they were afraid that if they held out for a mistrial that it would be easy to identify which juror had done that and that they were fearful for their own safety," Demos added.
The filmmakers said that the mystery juror would be willing to serve as a "source" if there was a new trial.
A juror who was dismissed from Avery's murder trial also recently told People
that two of the jurors who convicted Avery were related to Manitowoc County employees.
"After the trial, I found out...[one juror] was the father of a Manitowoc County Sheriff's deputy," dismissed juror Richard Mahler said. "Another juror -- his wife works for the Manitowoc County Clerk's Office."
"I thought to myself, they shouldn't have been on the jury," Mahler, who was ultimately excused from the trial after his daughter got into a car accident, said. "That was a conflict of interest."
Of course, not everyone is firmly on the side of Avery. Former Wisconsin state prosecutor Ken Kratz said in an interview with Good Morning America
on Tuesday that viewers of the Netflix series did not get to see important evidence that led a jury to convict Avery.
"This wasn't a documentary at all," Kratz said. "It wasn't until Netflix decided to repackage this as a documentary that both sides were invited to participate."
"If some of the evidence that was selected ... over an 18-month period didn't fit with the narrative ... that Mr. Avery was the product of a conspiracy ... it's my belief that the filmmakers just wouldn't include that information," he continued.
Meanwhile, Ricciardi and Demos have stood by their docu-series, calling it "fair," and "accurate."
"We are confident," Ricciardi told The Wrap
. "We stand by the project we did. It is thorough. It is accurate. It is fair. That is why it took us 10 years to produce it."
"As I’ve said before, Ken Kratz is entitled to his own opinion, but he’s not entitled to his own facts," she continued. "If he’d like to put together a documentary and try to discredit us in some way, he’s welcome to do that. We’re not going to be pulled into re-litigating the Halbach case with him."
Making a Murderer
isn't the first true-crime series to grip viewers. Just days following the season finale of The Jinx
last March -- HBO’s six-part documentary about Robert Durst -- the real estate heir was charged with first-degree murder
in California’s investigation into his longtime friend Susan Berman’s death.