10 questions about Making a Murderer on Netflix

A new opinion piece: ‘Injustice porn’ like Making a Murder and Serial celebrates men who kill and abuse women


10 Questions about Making a Murderer

10 Questions about Making a Murderer (Photo: courtesy of Netflix)

Things I’d like to ask the filmmakers now

So, I just watched the first six and a half episodes of Making a Murderer, couldn’t stand the suspense, skipped to Episode 10 and started googling. All this to say there are still two and a half hours of the new Netflix documentary, which I haven’t yet seen.

The series is about the 2005 murder of Teresa Halbach, who was alleged to have been killed by Steven Avery, a man exonerated by DNA evidence in 2003 after spending 18 years in jail for a wrongful rape conviction. Avery’s nephew Brendan Dassey was also charged with the murder. They were both convicted at separate trials in 20017.

I have to say that I was pretty convinced from the beginning, they didn’t do it, but I certainly have some questions about the filmmakers’ techniques and what they left out. For the record, here they are:

  1. Why did this take until 2015 to be released when the action in the form of the two guilty verdicts came down in 2007? That’s a hell of a long time to wait and I haven’t seen the delay satisfactorily explained.
  2. Why did the filmmakers Laura Ricciardi and Moira Demos, deliberately try to make the victim’s brother look suspicious but never deliver the gods?
  3. Ditto the ex-BF and the roommate. If you’re going to cast suspicion like that, don’t you have a duty to follow up?
  4. Why didn’t the filmmakers find out who the phone calls Teresa was avoiding came from? For that matter, why didn’t they independently pursue any other leads? They pretty much confine themselves to the courtroom in what seems to be an odd decision. Are they worried about what they will find elsewhere?
  5. Why did they let the fact that Steven Avery burned a cat go without further questioning about his childhood and psychology?
  6. What was the story of the harassing letters he is supposed to have sent to his ex-wife?
  7. Why did the Innocence Project run away from this story after the murder charges were laid?
  8. Why is the third remains site only mentioned once?
  9. What’s the deal with the idea there was some kind of jury funny business including possible jury tampering?
  10. Did any of the media who seemed relatively sceptical about the prosecution’s case ever follow up, and if so why not?

Update: Read my latest post, Who killed Teresa Halbach?

25 thoughts on “10 questions about Making a Murderer on Netflix

  1. A lot of answers are here: http://www.vulture.com/2015/12/making-a-murderer-directors-on-steven-avery-case.html

    and here: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/12/21/arts/television/behind-making-a-murderer-a-new-documentary-series-on-netflix.html

    1. It can take years to sell a film. They didn’t get a bite until 2013.

    2. I don’t think they cast that much suspicion. I think the point of including them was to show that the police didn’t follow other leads.

    Ricciardi: We invited the Halbach family to participate in the film, and we had coffee with Mike Halbach, the official spokesperson for the family, to discuss the idea, but they decided not to participate. So we filmed Mike at all the press conferences that he held, but that was the extent of our interaction with him.”

    4. I would love to find out about the phone calls too. As well as the quarry. I think their aim was not to solve the case, as is done in Serial. But rather to showcase the journey of the Avery family.

    • I have many questions about the evidence that was (or wasn’t) referenced in this series.

      As a related matter, I’d love to know to what extent the filmmakers shaped the narrative by their decisions – in short, was the series evenhanded in its presentation, or did it omit key evidence against Steven Avery?

      Among specific things that I did not hear any answers to (and often not discussion of) are:

      !. Absence of Teresa’s DNA on the RAV4 key, while Steve’s DNA was the only trace found — how was this possible? Was it possible only if the key was deliberately cleaned? Since it would make no sense for Steve to clean the key only to leave it in his bedroom, this seems to support the idea the key was planted.

      2. What DNA was recovered from the RAV4? I think that we were told that blood evidence was the only thing placing Steve in the RAV4, but I would expect the vehicle to have DNA from multiple people unless it had been cleaned very carefully. What did the evidence show here?

      3. I assume the gun that produced the “magic bullet” was never found/identified. If that was the case, what evidence supported Steve’s conviction on the count of owning a firearm? Also, would it have even been possible to match the “magic bullet” with the firearm it was shot from?

      4. Why weren’t the multiple burn sites made a bigger issue? What evidence was recovered from each? Did the evidence recovered include any items such as jewelry or dental fillings that could or should have been present?

      5. Also with respect to the cremation, was any evidence presented about the heat and duration of fire needed to produce the cremains that were found? Was this consistent with the State’s timeline and with the type/duration of fire in Steve’s firepit? Also, was any evidence presented about anyone smelling (or not) odors from the cremation?

      6. I assume the source of the mystery calls to Teresa’s phone was not determined. Did the police ever investigate this matter? Was it technically impossible to obtain any evidence relating to this question?

      7. Apparently Teresa’s phone was last identified while at the Avery property, but it’s not clear what this means. Could the phone’s location be determined at any time that it was on, or was it possible to determine only when the phone was in use in some manner?

      8. Regarding the Officer who called in asking for information about the licence plate number of Teresa’s RAV4,
      a) was there any way to determine from what location he called?
      b) did the defense (or anyone else) attempt to establish his location at the time of that call, or otherwise establish a timeline of his activities after the time of that call?
      c) beyond what we saw on-screen, did the defense push for more of an explanation of why the Officer placed that call if he was not looking at the the vehicle?

      9. Regarding prosecutorial behavior in the case, how appropriate was the press conference in which Steven Avery was announce as the guilty party? Were there ever any adverse consequences for the DA? Why didn’t the defense make an issue of this, including seeking a change of venue?

      10. Related to the question of venue, the defense lawyers are shown discussing a stack of 131 forms completed by potential jurors, only one of whom apparently indicated that he or she could assume Steve’s innocence until proven guilty. Does that represent the jury pool from which the trial jury was drawn? If so, how could the defense not make a major issue of this fact? If not, how and when was an unbiased jury pool obtained?

      11. Related to Brendan Dassey”s case, was a psychological or competency evaluation ever conducted, and, if so, any evidence presented at trial? Similarly, was any evidence presented about the validity of his “confession?”

      12. Also related to Brendan, in Steve Allen’s trial the DA described Steve as the sole person responsible for Teresa’s murder. Procedurally and ethically, how could he then go on to prosecute Brendan for that crime? Did Brendan’s defense raise this issue? If not, why not? Would if not also be an appeal issue for Steve, as proof that the State knew that it’s theory of the crime was defective?

      13. Doe’s Teresa’s family believe that the right person or persons were convicted of her murder? While not presuming that I can understand fully what they have gone through, I think that in such a situation I would have a great deal of doubt about the investigation and the outcome of the trial.

      • Re: #8 You might also want to add: if the license plate was on the car when officer Colburn?? Called it in, how did the car end up without plates at the junk yard/property, and how/when did those plates show up? Avery’s attorney showed them as an exhibit in one of the court scenes.

        • One of the episodes mentioned that the plates were found in another car on the Avery property. What never made sense to me is that they claimed that Theresa was killed either in the bedroom or the garage, but they never found any of her DNA there (except, I think, on the bullet fragment). So Avery was so ultra-competent that he could clean his house and garage to the extent that no foreign DNA was found, but he didn’t clean his own blood from the SUV? And it doesn’t made sense to me that he didn’t go out the next morning and crush a few cars — including the SUV.

          • The DA said Theresa was stabbed in the stomach, her throat was slit (but she didn’t die) and then shot in the head. Whether this was done in the bedroom or in the garage there would have been so much blood. I didn’t hear them mention that luminol testing was done in either location. As we’ve all seen on CSI, ID channel and other crime shows it’s nearly impossible to completely get rid of blood to where luminol won’t pick it up. This has bothered me since watching the documentary.

          • You know, regardless of whether Avery & his nephew are innocent or guilty, due to the involvement of the Manitowac police in the investigation of this murder, Avery’s right to a fair and just process was violated. All evidence found by the conflict of interest parties should be thrown out, and a new trial based on whatever remaining evidence is available. Then it would be (hopefully) justice.

  2. Thanks for your answer.

    I had actually read both of those articles before I wrote my questions. Neither of those articles nor the other ones I’ve seen explain the delay to my satisfaction. It just doesn’t take eight years, and they never actually say no one was interested or they got multiple rejections. I’m pretty convinced we haven’t heard the real back story here.

    Re suspicion and the brother, of course the point was to cast suspicion and show him in the worst possible light — from his very first clip where he says the grieving process might take days. Everything he says is stupid and those long camera shots … the only thing the directors didn’t add was a creepy soundtrack.

    I’ve since discovered that the lawyers, who were very competent, didn’t have the brother on their list of possible alternative suspects. They actually had a bunch of members of extended Avery family. So WTF were the filmmakers doing here? And how is that ethical?

    • I agree with you.

      I am also very suspicious as to why the filmmakers did not spend more time reviewing Steven’s troubled past. There are tendencies toward violence all through his life. They present the documentary in a way that makes it seem implausible that Steven could commit such a murder. When you dig deeper you realize that it was very possible.

  3. I couldn’t take it anymore stopped after # 3 and read what happened online.
    Ahhhhhhhh! You got to be kidding me!

    He was setup and not much he could of done about it. They were gunning for him for his big 36 mill payout that they didn’t want to pay out, and the corrupt cops had to do something to take the pressure off of them for his first case that fingered many of them who were involved with that.
    Lesson learned…if you want to take on the courts and cops you better have a lot of money.

    Poor people get railroaded all the time this way whereas if he was wealthy he could of had a better defense. I have seen the courts and police behave this way in my town on lesser matters.
    So the worse the case the more corrupt they behave.

  4. The filmmakers couldn’t provide any evidence on the other possible suspects because the police destroyed any actual evidence, watch the whole thing.

    I’m guessing you aren’t in the film industry if you don’t know why it didn’t get distribution sooner.

    I’m just about positive that the cops found the car with the body in it (why else would the cop call in the plates 2 days before it was found on the avery property? ) and burned the body to get rid of actual evidence of the actual murder, and then proceeded to railroad Steven Avery. The truth rests with the cop who found the actual car. We may never know who did it.

    It seems to me that viewers are forgetting that Avery was NOT guilty of the first crime. He has no history of rape or violence against women (although he does have a criminal record, his crimes were pretty normal for a low IQ, poor, uneducated, rural man.) so the fact that no one talked about what on earth his motive would have been proved that his reputation was never recovered after the first accusation of rape.

    It is very likely that she was murdered by someone close to her. Those are always the first suspects in an investigation, unless the police have an agenda. They owned a junk yard and she worked at Auto Trader, remember this was not the first time she had been there, they did business regularly. So the fact that she was there that day and then reported missing 3 days later was just a bad coincidence that the police were able to exploit. And we don’t know it was actually the last place she had been. Maybe that’s why some voicemail had to be deleted.

  5. these are all great points. the documentary was so unsettling, so upsetting. but, there were many questions left unanswered. and i was happy to discover websites where people were bringing up the same issues that i couldn’t understand. i really want to know the truth about what happened that halloween.

  6. You can’t say Avery is stupid enough to leave evidence like that laying around his property, but then turn around and say the reason her blood isn’t found in that garage is because he’s smart enough to clean it up. What? Seriously? He was framed. And I believe, like others do, that the police found her in that trunk and proceeded to frame Avery to the best of their ability. Colburn calling in those plates days before the car was found was the nail in the coffin imo of proof he was being framed. And you keep throwing the filmmakers this shade that is undeserved. You need to redirect that shade at the horrible police and DA. Why is it their responsibility to tell you who did it? You have a brain use it. If you think what they did left you unsatisfied then by all means be the detective you want others to be and figure it out.

  7. I want to know if the investigators used luminol to detect any blood in the bed room and in the garage. If she was killed in the manner they claimed she was there would be a lot of blood. From my understanding luminol can detect blood even if it has been cleaned up. Also why wasn’t Avery’s finger prints all over the car? If he was only bleeding from his hand that would mean he wasn’t wearing gloves and his finger prints should be in the car too. I also believe that Colburn found her dead in the car somewhere off the Avery property and did everythig the could to make it look like Steven Avery did it.

    • I highly doubt she was killed the way the prosecution said she was.

      Calling in the license plate number as C. did was suspicious, but you shouldn’t jump to unsubstantiated conclusions. We have no idea why he did that. I’d love to know.

      • I doubt she was killed the way they claimed too. That’s why I brought up the luminol. They said Avery had 3-4 days to clean up. Why didn’t the defense ask why inestigators didn’t use luminol. You can’t accuse someone of doing something and not do everything you can to prove to prove he did it. That is a huge question for me.

        • I think you need to read the transcripts (which I haven’t read). That might give you more insights. He had a good defence team so I sincerely doubt they overlooked anything obvious.

  8. There was only one key – the car key. Most people have several keys on a single keychain.

    Was her camera every found?

    Is there a way to track the cell phone location before, and after the time of death?

    What was used to start the fire in the burn pit? Was it the same that Avery uses?

    Why was there blood in the back of the Rav if she was killed in the house?

    Did anyone else see the car or hear screams or see them move a body?

    Where were the marks on the bed posts from the handcuffs?

    She was shot while tied up in bed with a rifle by the kid and nobody heard any thing, not mention the mess that would make?

    Why was there no blood on the key?

    Why was the RAV parked up high and not blended in with the other cars?

    Avery and his nephew had plenty of time to destroy the car and get rid of any bones but didn’t? The prosecutor said they had 5 days to clean up the evidence in the bedroom yet they left the car and bones outside for anyone to discover?

    Every car has a black box. Was that investigated for movement of the car to verify the last time it was driven?

    What were the calls she was concerned about? Can those calls be back tracked and the bothering caller be notified?

    What were the context of the messages left on her phone and when were they left?

    Did Avery call her phone after 2:45 PM?

    Did they find bullets in the fire pit?

    Did the bullet they found in the garage match the skull damage?

    Where was the ex boyfriend during the time of the murder?

    Strange that the victims cousin was the one who found the RAV

    The Blood

    Why was the vile of blood tampered with and when?

    Did the defense examine the vile or box for fingerprints?

    Why did the FBI discontinue the lab that finds blood preservative? Could it be because it is an inaccurate method?

    Does the blood preservative evaporate when exposed to air?

    Did the blood in the vile contain the preservative?

    If Steve Avery was coming into $36 million why would he risk killing someone as well as involving another person?

  9. So like some have mentioned. Avery is clever enough to carry out this horrible act of cutting and shooting and burning her body with not a single hair, or skin cell or trace of blood in the house or garage, except for the bullet. He would have to have either been very careful or cleaned very well, any case, he was being thorough. But;
    1. Doesnt pick up his shell cases in the garage.
    2. Leaves he key in the house.
    3. Decides not to crush the car.
    4. Has to put the body into the car even though she supposedly is killed in the house or garage and then burned thereafter behind the garage… Oh and then couldn’t decide where he wanted to burn the body so he moved it around a bit.

    Is there reasonable doubt? Why yes there is.
    For me one of the most puzzling pieces to this case is the victims blood in the car. It does not fit the supposed events that took place. Was her dead body in that car? Yes. Why? There is a quarry burn area that her remains are found. Why? It would be more reasonable to conclude that she was killed somewhere els. (There would have to be DNA evidence at the kill site).The body was carried to the quarry and burned. The car was placed at the junk yard and the remains moved to Avery’s house. All this together would lead me to look at someone else. As for Avery’s criminal history and psychological state. There are red flags but the rest of the story does not add up.

  10. Do I think that the people who did this documentary could be biased, for sure. Is ther missing information, likely! However given what we did see, guilty or innocent, in this country someone who is accused of a criminal offense has to be proven guilty without a reasonable doubt. There is so much doubt in this case there should never have been given a conviction. how does it makes sense that he’s guilty of killing her but not of mutilating her. Then who the hell mutilated her if he killed her? The fact that Manitowoc Police should not have been involved due to a conflict of interest. Tainted blood sample that per protocol should have been thrown out but wasn’t. Police who lied under oath on depositions. An area that had been gone through over several times and all of a sudden a key shows up. No blood ANYWHERE! How do you tie someone to a bed, torture them, slit there throat, drag them to the garage and shoot them 11 times and there is none of their blood ANYWHERE!

    • I concur with everything you said and have had many discussions about exactly the same issues. I have yet to hear anyone answer any of these questions. I also want to know why there was a needle prick in Stephen’s blood vile? What legal purpose allows for someone to extract blood from a sealed vile? One last question, how did CNN’s Nancy Grace become an expert on this case so quickly after the documentary aired and if she’s the go-to-girl why didn’t she answer any of these questions?

  11. I apologize in advance for my long windedness, but here goes.

    This show pointed out enough questionable tactics and feasible theories of police wrongdoing that I believe if the news hadn’t broadcast so many negative things about Avery and Brendan that a truly unbiased jury would not have convicted then. Most of the jurors probably had an opinion about Avery and his nephew before stepping into that courtroom.

    That being said, I find it difficult to say I feel that Avery is innocent. Brendon is most likely not guilty. But Avery’s letters to his wife repeatedly threatening to kill her show another side of him that the documentary failed to expound upon, beyond showing the letters. Burning the families cat at an earlier age is concerning, especially since Ms Halbach was also burned. Also, accepting the possibility that the police officers ignored a “real killer” to pin Avery with a crime is hard to wrap your head around. Not that I think it is impossible, its just that it is hard to believe. This is not planting drugs on someone, or exaggerating an altercation with a suspect to justify excessive force. This is accessory to murder after the fact. This is allowing a murderer to go free, and possibly kill again, to frame someone else. Hard to grasp in my opinion. Though I do believe the lawsuit could be strong motivator.

    A lot of people have pointed to the blood vial and evidence box as suspicious. Particularly the hole in the blood vial. This is a non issue. If you have ever given blood you know that the process is to tap a vein with a needle that has a length of IV hose going to a tubular receptacle. The vials are then inserted into the tubular receptacle where a needle punctures the rubber seal and blood is allowed to flow. The medical technician then can extract several vials of blood at a time. As far as the evidence box being tampered with, the show did mention that the box had been opened, after it had been sealed, with everyone’s knowledge, at some previous date.

    I do, however have some concerns with the evidence and theory of death. First, the prosecution wants us to believe that Avery cleaned up well enough that no DNA or blood evidence was left in the house or the garage. Well seeing the videos of the police entering the residence and garage, it is obvious that neither had been remotely cleaned for quite some time. the place was a mess of clutter, and disorganization. I find it hard to believe that anyone could cover up a crime so perfectly with that amount of clutter without having to clean up completely. I would have been apt to believe the “master clean up artist” theory if the house and garage were better kempt. Of course it is possible that the police have it all wrong about how and where she was killed. After all their theory is based upon a confession of Brendon that is most likely coerced, whether intentionally or not, by the detectives. But this does not mean that Avery is innocent, only that the police could be wrong about the details. Brendon could be telling the truth about making up the whole rape/murder story to satisfy the detectives. And Avery could have taken Halbach somewhere else, murdered her and transported her body back to the burn pit. Explaining the blood in the back of the SUV. But more confusing is the cop calling dispatch to run the license plate before the car was found (without its plates no less). I cannot rectify this, and the show did not give any more info about it. It is suspicious at least.

    But the truth is that even if The police have their theory wrong but Avery IS a murderer, I go back to my original statement that too many unanswered questions should have resulted in reasonable doubt at the least. I am surprised that a jury could unanimously convict someone with this evidence. I think that this case is a perfect example of someone being convicted in the court of public opinion, before going into a courtroom. And that is probably the most disturbing and scary aspect to this whole thing.

    I apologize again for the editorial.

Tell us what you really think