Netflix series ‘Making a Murderer’ triggers debate

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An 18-year-stay in jail for a crime he didn’t commit. An additional 10 years already spent in jail for a murder he continually pleads not guilty to.

‘Making a Murderer’ is the new Netflix series about Steven Avery and the turmoil that he and his family face for crimes he claims to not have committed.

The documentary series was first streamed on Dec.18, 2015, and is sparking controversy about the U.S. justice system.

Not only is it controversial, but it is the source of many politically fueled debates across social media platforms. Viewers are fed the background story and case information through the documentary series, and form their own theories and opinions on the Avery case.

In 1985, Avery was initially put away for crimes he firmly claimed to be not guilty of. He was incarcerated for the sexual assault and attempted murder of Penny Beerntsen.

After an 18-year-stay in jail, new DNA evidence exonerated Steven Avery in 2003 back to his home in Manitowoc County, Wisconsin.

His freedom was short-lived. In 2005 he was arrested and later convicted for the murder of Teresa Halbach, a photographer for a local magazine.

The investigation involved the same local authorities who convicted Avery of the sexual assault and attempted murder of Beerntsen in 1985.

Avery continues to plead not guilty for the crime he has currently served for over 10 years. Petitions have been spread across the internet for his freedom. But the most Avery’s supporters can do now is wait for new DNA evidence to prove his innocence.

“I don’t see any change happening,” said Audrey Carroll, a Butte College student who supports Avery. “If the Supreme Court had taken his case then there may have been a possibility, but since that didn’t happen I really don’t think so.”

Audrey Carroll, a dental hygiene student at Butte College. Photo credit: Katelyn Martin


Many students feel discouraged by the outcome of the case, especially because it highlights the weaknesses within the political justice system.

Avery is currently sitting in a jail cell waiting for his next chance at finding freedom. The chances look slim but supporters try to remain hopeful.

“Even a presidential pardon would not be able to do anything since he is a state prisoner and the governor of Wisconsin, Scott Walker, has already stated that he will not consider a pardon,” said Neil Rypka, a fourth year mechanical engineering student.

Neil Rypka, a senior mechanical engineering major at Chico State. Photo credit: Katelyn Martin


The documentary has given many young citizens a look into a system that might not be as efficient as they previously thought.

Kate Scarratt, fourth year international relations major said, “[it] has affected [my] view of the criminal justice system and how it seems like it is easily influenced, especially when there is no unbiased oversight.”

Kate Scarratt, a senior international relations student at Chico State. Photo credit: Katelyn Martin


Many other online viewers wonder how many innocent prisoners are being held for crimes they did not commit.

Not only that, but many people are calling into question the amount of control local and federal governments have on the sway of a case.

The documentary series alludes to the evidence in Teresa Halbach’s murder trial being tampered with by authorities working on the case.

“I believe that he [Avery] committed the crime, but that officers from the sheriff’s department planted evidence. The documentary doesn’t give you all the evidence presented against Steven Avery,” said Scarratt.

Many other viewers, such as Carroll, agree that there was evidence left out of the actual documentary series which would have swayed the viewer towards the idea that Steven Avery is innocent.

“When I watched the documentary I automatically thought that he was innocent, but after I read a few articles on Facebook about what details the documentary left out, details like his past abuse with his ex wife, yet even after reading those I still think he is innocent,” said Carroll.

Omitting certain factors that play into Avery’s case could help the viewer decide more easily.

The debate still continues regarding Avery’s role in the case and his innocence. For now though, supporters of Avery try to remain hopeful for new evidence that he is not guilty.

Katelyn Martin can be reached at [email protected] or @katelynmmartin_ on Twitter.