The creators of the popular Netflix documentary series "Making a Murderer," which explores the controversial 2007 murder conviction of Wisconsin man Steven Avery, said they have been contacted by a juror in that trial who now says that Avery should be a free man.
Laura Ricciardi and Moira Demos appeared on NBC's "TODAY" on Tuesday to reveal that the juror, who wishes to remain anonymous, believes Avery was "framed by law enforcement" and deserves to have a new trial far from the location of his first one. According to the filmmakers, the juror, who ultimately voted to convict Avery, had hoped the jury's split verdict (he was not found guilty of mutilating a corpse) would send a message to appellate courts and could result in a new trial. That, however, did not happen.
The source also told Ricciardi and Demos that jurors "traded votes" as a "compromise," voting not guilty on some counts in exchange for guilty votes on another. According to the fillmakers, the juror was afraid to hold out for a not guilty verdict because had their been a mistrial they felt they would be identified as the cause and they "feared for their personal safety." Ricciardi and Demos said they haven't independently verified the juror's story or spoken with any other jurors.
"Making a Murderer" has become a breakout hit for Netflix since it debuted last December. "We never could have anticipated or even dreamed of the response to this series," said Ricciardi on "TODAY," adding that she is "excited about the public discourse it has generated."
The 10-episode streaming series suggests that Avery, who was previously imprisoned for 18 years for a sexual assault he did not commit, is the victim of community prejudice and biased local authorities who had a vendetta against him. However, prosecutors in the 2007 case (Avery was convicted of killing photographer Teresa Halbach) have countered that the show has omitted a substantial portion of the physical evidence that points to Avery's guilt. Nevertheless, the show has inspired hundreds of thousands to back two petitions calling on President Obama to intervene on Avery's behalf with an executive pardon. Avery is currently serving a life sentence for Halbach's murder.
"Our goal going in was always to start a dialogue,'' Demos said on "TODAY." "And I'm sure a piece of that dialogue is people's desire to have more information about what happened to Teresa Halbach, and if somebody finds more information, I think that's a good thing. I think that's what she deserves."
The series is just the latest true crime saga to capture the public's imagination. Previously both the podcast "Serial" and the HBO series "The Jinx" had enormous followings and influenced real life re-examinations of the cases they covered. As for Avery's situation, prosecutor Ken Kratz suggested that he may be entitled to a new trial during a recent "TMZ Live" interview.
"If there is evidence that is developed or if the science progresses and that calls into question anything that happened — either by way of DNA or any other kind of forensic evidence, Steven Avery will be entitled to a new trial,” Kratz said.
In "Making a Murderer," the source of Avery's blood found in Halbach's abandoned vehicle is called into question. In a memorable moment during his closing arguments, which is replayed on the show, Kratz argues that even if the blood was planted by police, Avery still deserved to be convicted. During his "TMZ Live" interview, Kratz defended this assertion. “Juries are not to search for doubt. They are to search for the truth. Their role here was to decide if this man — in that case, the Steven Avery trial, was guilty of taking the life of this young woman. Their role was not to decide if evidence was planted," he said.
"This is a one-sided advocacy piece. It was intended as such. It was made by and for a defense team for Steven Avery," he added in reference to the series.
Ricciardi and Demos have consistently defended their filmmaking process. “As filmmakers and as storytellers, it’s in our interest to show conflict and to show the strengths of the state’s case, then show the defense’s arguments against it. That was how we structured things,” Ricciadi told The Daily Beast.