Laura Ricciardi and Moira Demos, directors of the sensational docu-series Making a Murderer, got grilled by reporters and TV critics today at TCA, with an early request to respond to charges the film hadn’t told the “entire story” of convicted murderer Steven Avery.
“This is a documentary,” Ricciardi insisted, not objective journalism or a re-trial. “We did not set out to convict or exonerate anyone,” but to “look at the criminal justice system today.” Making a Murderer chronicles the arrests and convictions of Avery and his nephew, both found guilty of the 2005 murder of photographer Teresa Halbach. Avery had been pursuing a $36 million lawsuit against police after previously spending 18 years in prison on a wrongful rape conviction.
Avery found guilty of the 2005 murder of photographer Teresa Halbach while he was pursuing a $36 million lawsuit against police after previously spending 18 years in prison for a rape he did not commit.
If so, it was lost on many viewers, though Netflix hit the marketing motherlode when not one but two petitions of outrage were created by fans insisting on Avery’s innocence and demanding his release. One petition was addressed to the White House, insisting President Barack Obama get Avery out of the slammer, though, of course, the Constitution does not give him that power, as Obama patiently noted. Petition signers clearly were based their anger on their viewing of the Netflix series, which some critics, including several TV news programs covering the case, have said withheld important information. “Clearly people were very affected by the series,” Moira said. “We’re trying to urge people to think more deeply about what the series is about.”
Earlier this month, Nancy Grace joined the anti-Making a Murderer media pile-on, adding her voice to those of Fox News, Investigation Discovery and NBC News in taking issue with the docu-series. HLN’s rush to air Grace’s Making A Murderer rebuttal got her out in front of Fox News Channel’s Making A Murderer rebuttal, Steven Avery: Guilty Or Framed?, and Investigation Discovery’s Front Page: The Steven Avery Story in partnership with NBC News’ Peacock Productions, that was announced earlier at TCA and is set to air late this month. Grace alone says she’s got no fewer than nine reasons she’s sure Avery murdered Halbach, and will reveal “crucial evidence that was not exposed” by the Making a Murderer directors.
“What we’re seeing is history repeating itself,” Ricciardi said today of that pile-on. “Now on a national scale, the media is demonizing this man. We documented the case as it was unfolding. We showed Steven Avery, warts and all, showed all of his priors…Just because someone is coming forward now with a narrative, their interpretation doesn’t make it factual, doesn’t make it truth.”
She insisted the 10-part Netflix series is not Avery’s “biography. “What we set out to do here was a checkup on the American criminal justice system and if it was any better at delivering truth and justice in 2005” than when Avery was previously (and falsely) convicted of rape.
During today’s panel, a critic noted that one of the previously pro-women interviewed on the series has reversed her stance and “claimed she was abused by him and he forced her to say nice things about her on camera.”
“I can’t say why [she] is saying that today,” Demos said. “When we filmed with her nine years ago, this is what she was saying to us. It is an accurate portrayal of what she was saying and feeling at the time.”
“Can you define what a fact is?” one TV critic finally asked the two directors late in their Q&A. Demos responded that Making a Murderer presents lots of information as “fact” along with the counter-arguments. “It’s muddy and we’re urging people to embrace that ambiguity and the complexity of these matters.”