So, did he do it? What do you think? By now, there's a good chance you know who I'm talking about without my having to clarify ― Wisconsin native and convicted murderer Steven Avery, whose 2006 trial is the subject of the immensely compelling new Netflix documentary series, Making a Murderer. The series is pretty direct and unabashed in the theory of the case it presents, suggesting that Avery was not guilty, and could have even been allegedly framed by the county (which Manitowoc County adamantly denies). But not everyone agrees with this theory: One of Steven Avery's jurors, Diane Free, defended the guilty verdict in comments made to the AP on Thursday.
According to CBS News, Free stated that she was "comfortable with the verdict we reached." She also claimed that "the thing on Netflix was a movie, not a documentary." And if that second turn of phrase sounds familiar to you, that makes sense ― it's more or less precisely how former Calumet County district attorney and prosecutor in the Avery case Ken Kratz criticized the series last week, dubbing it "a perfectly good conspiracy movie" in an interview with People. Suffice it to say, disputing Making a Murderer's status as a documentary seems to be a main line of attack for its critics.
Obviously, despite the compelling suggestions presented in the hit Netflix series, the truth is still elusive. The documentary does present a pretty suspicious story, however, in light of the conflicts of interest raised by Avery's $36 million lawsuit against Manitowoc County for his wrongful imprisonment in the 1980s, and the continued involvement of the Manitowoc Sheriff's Department even after the media had been assured otherwise. Especially considering the legal standards for conviction ― if there's reasonable doubt about a defendant's guilt, that's supposed to be grounds for an acquittal.
Free is not the only juror to have spoken out about the case, and others feel differently. Earlier this week, a man who was dismissed prior to the verdict, Richard Mahler, stated that he believed Avery to be not guilty, and that he would have voted as such if he'd still been on at the time. Mahler was let off the jury after a family crisis ― according to an interview with People, his daughter suffered a car accident, which forced his departure and replacement ― but he now says that he wonders if his presence could've changed any minds.
He also made allegations that two of the other jurors themselves had potential conflicts of interest, with one related to a Manitowoc sheriff's deputy, and another the spouse of a Manitowoc County clerks of court employee. Reporting by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel back in 2007 corroborates those claims.
The documentary's creators have also alleged that a juror reached out to them after its release to claim that Avery was framed, and that they voted to convict out of fear for their own safety. All allegations of evidence-planting and wrongdoing by the authorities has been vehemently denied by Kratz and the county, both during the trial and now.
Image: Making a Murderer/Netflix (2)