The Netflix docuseries Making a Murderer has sparked controversy over the Manitowoc County police department, which wrongfully convicted Steven Avery of rape in 1985. Avery was eventually exonerated by DNA evidence, after spending 18 years of his life in prison. Later, Avery was sentenced to life in prison for the 2005 murder of photographer Teresa Halbach. In their endeavor to prove Avery's innocence, suspected members of Anonymous are zoning in on two police officers.
The docuseries questions the veracity of the case's main pieces of evidence. Firstly, the show features the testimony of Calumet County's Deputy Daniel Kucharski, who was involved in the first wave of searches throughout Avery's property. During the third day of searching, a key was found underneath a pair of Avery's slippers. In the docuseries, Kucharski claims, "The key wasn't there the first time they were moved." Bustle has reached out to the department for comment.
Piling on to the controversy, Lt. James Lenk of the Manitowoc County Sheriff's Department is the officer who found that key. Sgt. Andrew Colborn of Manitowoc County was also present. In a cross-examination conducted by lead prosecutor Kenneth Kratz of Calumet County, Colborn and Lenk denied planting the key. Kratz, who was later convicted of sexually harassing a sexual assault victim, acted as the third party leader. As part of their campaign, Anonymous has created a meme that alludes to the allegations made against Kratz.
Though Manitowoc County officers were ultimately involved in the search, Sheriff Hermann responded to the series' claims by defending the county's decision to bring in other parties in statement to Wisconsin's HTR News:
Because of the previous case, we thought it would be best. That was right from the get-go we had the other agency involved and taking the lead on it. Anytime there is a serious incident, if you have a suspect, it’s best to get that arrest made, but you can only do that when you have enough probable cause.
Another pertinent piece of evidence used to convict Avery was a sample of his blood inside Halbach's car — it was smeared near the ignition, in plain sight. Later, viewers find out that the Manitowoc courthouse possessed a recently-opened vial of blood taken from Avery in 1996. A month later, County Circuit Judge Patrick Willis ruled that Avery's attorney could reveal the details concerning the open vial to the jury.
Around four months later, before Avery was sent to prison, police also received a confession from Avery's nephew, 16-year-old Brendan Dassey. Dassey confessed to assisting Avery in the rape and murder of Halbach. He has since received a life sentence in prison. On camera, Dassey's mother Jodi claims that her son told her that the interrogator forced him into fabricating the story. The department insists that it used only standard techniques when speaking with Dassey.
Regardless of viewers' investment in Avery's potential innocence, Moira Demos, co-producer of the series, maintains that it is not trying to sway viewers:
In the end, we are not trying to provide any answers. We don’t have a conclusion. We are really raising questions and our goal is to promote a dialogue about these things.
Current Calumet County Sheriff Robert Hermann, who hasn't watched the series, insists that Making a Murderer has a one-sided agenda:
I won’t call it a documentary, because a documentary puts things in chronological order and tells the story as it is ... I’ve heard things are skewed. They’ve taken things out of context and taken them out of the order in which they occurred, which can lead people to a different opinion or conclusion.
These members of Anonymous apparently decided to play detective, centering in on just two suspects: Sgt. Andrew Colborn and Lt. James Lenk. They say they're teaming up with partner hacktivist organization Ghost Security to reveal phone records and emails between Colborn and Lenk. The groups claim that this evidence suggests the two had set Avery up for a wrongful conviction.