This Friday, Netflix returns to Manitowoc to revisit the curious case of Steven Avery in a 10-episode second season of Making a Murderer.
The critically acclaimed docuseries became a national phenomenon when it premiered in late 2015. The Part 2 trailer hints at evidence that may exonerate Avery. It also introduces Avery’s new attorney, Kathleen Zellner, who takes over for fan favorites Dean Strang and Jerome Buting. Zellner holds the record of overturned convictions, the trailer says, though her mid-range jumper could use some work.
Before Making a Murderer takes over your life again, here’s a chance to review some of the important details.
Who is Steven Avery?
Born July 9, 1962 in Manitowoc County, Steven Avery is the main subject of Making a Murderer. He was wrongly convicted of a sexual assault in 1985, and served 18 years of his 32-year sentence before DNA testing (which was not as advanced in 1985) exonerated him. In 2003, Avery filed a lawsuit against Manitowoc County and its former sheriff and D.A. for wrongful conviction and imprisonment.
It’s because of this lawsuit that Avery believes he was framed for Teresa Halbach’s murder because of this lawsuit.
On Oct. 31, 2005, Halbach, on assignment for AutoTrader magazine, went to Avery’s Auto Salvage to photograph a minivan Steven Avery was selling. Sometime that day, investigators believe, Halbach was murdered. Her Toyota RAV4 was found partially concealed at the salvage yard with Avery’s blood in it. Soon after, bone fragments confirmed to be Halbach’s were found in a burn pit on the Avery property. On Nov. 11, 2005, Avery was arrested and charged with Teresa Halbach’s murder as well as kidnapping, sexual assault, and mutilation of a corpse.
Avery’s nephew, Brendan Dassey, was charged in 2006 as an accessory to the murder, after confessing under interrogation to helping his uncle kill Halbach. Dassey was interrogated by investigators without his court-appointed attorney present. For whatever reason, Len Kachinsky didn’t feel his presence was necessary while his intellectually disabled client was questioned as an accessory to murder. He was removed by the court soon after.
(Earlier this year, Kachinsky — who, somehow, was promoted to a judgeship — was arrested for stalking and violating a temporary restraining order held against him by one of his former clerks.)
The prosecution, led by sleaze lord Ken Kratz, argued Avery raped and murdered Halbach before burning her body and dumping her car in a secluded part of his property. Dassey assisted him in this, and Dassey’s confession helped paint the lurid details Kratz used in his arguments.
Dean Strang and Jerome Buting, meanwhile, said Manitowoc County Sheriff’s deputies had planted evidence, most notably the blood found in the RAV4. Strang and Buting claimed to have found an 11-year-old vial of Avery’s blood, unsealed in the local Clerk of Courts office. They said this vial was the source of the blood in Halbach’s car.
Avery was found guilty and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Dassey, astonishingly, was also found guilty for his “part” in the crime, and sentenced to life in prison. He’ll be eligible for parole in 2048, when he’s 59 years old.
Did Avery do it?
From the jump, Making a Murderer has been a documentary that sets out to prove a man’s innocence. And it does present a lot of evidence that supports this. But it also leaves out a great deal of evidence that maybe, actually, he did do it.
“They don’t even tell you 80 percent of the evidence that the jury saw,” Kratz actually told Maxim (natch). For example, Kratz says in a separate email that Avery used a fake name and phone number when he initially placed the call that brought Halbach to the property. Maybe he was just doing character work for an improv class?
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to evidence that contradicts the documentary.
Avery has appealed for a new trial numerous times, and has come up short on all of them.
Dassey, meanwhile, had his conviction overturned by a three-person federal court. But the state of Wisconsin requested to reargue the case in front of the full panel, which upheld the conviction. His lawyers appealed to the Supreme Court in 2018, but their case was denied.
There’s speculation the second season will present new evidence that points toward Avery’s and Dassey’s innocence. After all, it’s unlikely an attorney as high-powered as Kathleen Zellner would take the case without seeing something that’s assured her she could exonerate him. Similarly, the trailer seems to point in the direction of other suspects, likely someone Halbach knew. Zellner seems to think this person is Halbach’s ex-boyfriend, Ryan Hillegas.
Or maybe it has something to do with that cell tower mentioned in the trailer? I listened to the first season of Serial, and when the cell towers start getting pinged, you know shit’s about to get real.