SPECIAL REPORT: Making a Mockery? - WAOW - Newsline 9, Wausau News, Weather, Sports

SPECIAL REPORT: Making a Mockery?


(WAOW) - The Netflix series Making a Murderer which follows the trials of Steven Avery and his nephew Brendan Dassey, has taken the country by storm.

Some say it sheds light on a staggering injustice, others say it's one-sided and misleading.

But while millions have opinions, very few watched the actual trial.  Newsline 9 has exclusive interviews with two reporters who covered Steven Avery, from his release from prison for a crime he didn't commit, to the guilty verdict in the murder of Teresa Halbach.

Making a Murderer starts with a celebration.  It shows the day back in 2003, when Avery was released from prison after spending 18 years in prison for a crime he didn't commit.

Bob Imrie was there.  "He was definitely surrounded by a media storm, I'll tell you that," said Imrie, a smile across his face as he sees himself in the background of the documentary.

Today Bob works in the newsroom at Newsline 9, but in 2003 he was a reporter for the Associated Press.  "The lead from that story was, 'a man freed from prison after spending 18 years for a crime he didn't commit, arrived home to hugs, kisses and two gulps of champagne,'" said Imrie as he reads from a copy of the story he wrote that day.

Imrie later had lunch with Avery and remembers a smiling, happy man. "I wrote this, 'Avery laughs often, the anger and bitterness over his horrible ordeal seemingly long gone, I though it would be tougher to adapt, he said, but it ain't so bad.'"

It was a very different Avery 2 years later, after he was arrested again, this time for the murder of Teresa Halbach.  Imrie remembers his reaction from that day, "What?! Are you kidding me?!" remembers Imrie.

"At that point it was the biggest investigation in Wisconsin history," said Becky DeVries.  DeVries worked as a TV reporter at the time, and has a unique perspective on the Avery case that most people don't.  "I covered the entire 6-week Steven Avery trial," said said.

DeVries filed stories every day for a public fascinated with Avery's second bout with the law.  Those daily headlines eventually faded after a guilty verdict, and Avery disappeared into prison for almost 10 years.

That is until Netflix brought it all back.

"It's crazy to see how, it seems like everyone has an opinion on it now," said DeVries.

"Instantly people were starting to talk about it," said Imrie.

Now Avery is making daily headlines again, this time from tweets from celebrities like Alec Baldwin, talk shows like Dr. Phil and even a petition to the White House calling for Avery and Dassey's release.  That petition got more that 300,000 signatures, forcing the White House to comment on it publicly.

But how did we get from a Netflix series about a case most people have never heard of, in a town no one's ever been to, to this national phenomenon?  The answer may lay, not only in what was in the series, but what was left out.

"It was interesting," said DeVries, who watched all 10 hours.  She thinks the series is sympathetic to Avery.  "It told the story from the convicted's point of view more so than anyone else's," said DeVries, "but I think missing some of the key evidence."

Key evidence, DeVries says, like non-blood DNA found under the hood of Halbach's car, and the fact that Avery specifically asked for Teresa to come over the day she disappeared.  "Leaving some of those out was actually kind of a disservice to the viewers," said DeVries.

There was more DNA found that didn't make the series, and it downplayed Avery's history with violence against women and animals.  So why leave all this out?

The filmmakers say they simply didn't have time for everything.  At least one reporter who covered the trial agrees. "The producers were able to condense it down into ten hours," said reporter Emily Matesic during a recent appearance on Dr. Phil, "did they present everything that was presented at trial? No. If they did you would be sitting there watching the entire trial again."

The filmmakers also point out that key pieces of the prosecution's case were included, and their real focus wasn't specifically Avery's case, they say, but shedding light on the justice system.

"To me the whole documentary is not about whether Steven Avery is innocent or guilty, it's about our system of justice and how it works," said Imrie.

Not everyone agrees. "I feel like it didn't revisit the justice system, it revisited their take on it," said DeVries, "when they kind of sum it up at the end, Steven Avery gets the last word."

For people who have seen the series, there are more questions than answers.  But after DeVries' experience with both the trial and the series, she is left with just one question. "I kind of wonder what is coming out of all of this?  Is it something to talk about at work? I hope not.  Is it really an examination of the justice system? Maybe.  Is it just entertainment?  It's a tragedy.  There's a murdered woman who's family is mourning forever and there's a family on the other side that is also troubled and hurting," said DeVries.

The series has people looking closer at the trial, but so far there have been no new court appearances for Avery.

It did lead to Avery getting a new lawyer. They are confident they will find evidence to force a new trial.

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