The hit true-crime Netflix show Making a Murderer has left some viewers with a rather hostile attitude to their electronic devices over the holidays.
The show is about the case of Steven Avery, a Wisconsin man serving life in prison for the murder of a 25-year-old photographer, Teresa Halbach, in 2005. It describes an investigation and trial rife with inconsistencies, glaring conflicts of interest, and omissions and mistakes by law-enforcement officials. It posits that the local sheriff’s department planted evidence to incriminate Avery. At the time of his arrest, Avery was in the process of suing the county for a prior wrongful conviction—a sexual assault for which he had served 18 years before being exonerated by DNA evidence.
Making a Murderer, which was filmed over the span of a decade and uses no voiceover narration, puts the audience directly in the courtroom. It shows the lawyers as they investigate the case and construct the line of defense, and gives a glimpse into the thoughts of Avery himself and his family through interviews. It presents law-enforcement officials, from low-level sheriff department’s officers to the district attorneys, in a highly unfavorable light. The main pushback has come from the show’s most notorious character, former district attorney Ken Kratz, who says the filmmakers omitted important evidence.
The show has struck a nerve among the American public. On social media, people have railed against the faulty American criminal justice system, designed conspiracy theories, and searched for alternative suspects. As of Monday afternoon (Jan. 4), nearly 200,000 people had signed a Change.org petition addressed to president Barack Obama for him to pardon Avery—even though he wouldn’t be able to, as the president can only free those accused under federal law.
A similar petition including a request to pardon Avery’s nephew, Brendan Dassey, who was also convicted for murder in the case, has garnered nearly 20,000 signatures on the White House website. If it reaches 100,000 by Jan. 19 the White House is required to respond.
Ordinary people and celebrities alike have been angered by the case.