IF fellows and staff are obsessed with the new viral Netflix series, “Making of a Murderer.” The 10-part documentary series looks at the case of a Wisconsin man who spent 18 years in jail for a rape that he did not commit. Steven Avery was exonerated in 2003 by DNA evidence, and was pursuing a $36 million lawsuit against the local government. Two years later, lightning struck again: Avery was charged again with murder of a photographer who visited his 40-acre family compound.
Filmmakers Moira Demos and Laura Ricciardi created the film using 10 years of footage that included contemporaneous interviews with the Avery family, their lawyers as well as the broadcast media circus of both trials. The film strongly suggests that local law enforcement (with the help of local media) railroaded the Avery family to prevent legal liability and to salvage its bruised reputation. The film suggests that the presumption of innocence was hijacked by a small-town grudge match against the Avery family which was widely derided as uneducated and low-class.
“Making of a Murderer” has become a viral hit. Countless Reddit forums and blogs have debated the curious case of Steven Avery, and his then-16-year old nephew who was also charged in the murder. Hundreds of thousand of people signed an online petition, “Free Steven Avery.”
Please join IF fellows at noon on Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2015 for a live online chat to explore some of the larger policy issues in the case, several of which emerged in IF Fellow Pete Shively’s recent projects on Crime & Punishment and the News Media.
Some questions we might explore:
What checks are there on the power of media and law enforcement?
What should be done when protections for children and those with mental challenges break down?
How do class issues affect how society views the accused?