‘Making a Murderer’ Drags Stephen Colbert Back Into Politics

The makers of the documentary appeared on his show last night shortly after Steven Avery filed to appeal his case.
Jan 13, 2016·
Jennifer Swann is TakePart’s culture and lifestyle reporter.

A week after President Barack Obama confirmed he did not have the authority to pardon Wisconsin inmate Steven Avery, the convicted murderer and subject of the Netflix documentary series Making a Murderer took legal matters into his own hands.

Avery filed two motions that were received by an appeals court in Madison, Wisconsin, on Monday, The New York Times reported. In them, Avery asks to be released on bond, alleging that he suffered the loss of due process and that evidence was illegally obtained from his property without a valid warrant. Calling the evidence “fruit of the poisonous tree,” Avery also accused Judge Angela Sutkiewicz of making “misleading and deceptive” statements during the trial, ignoring what he said was “irrefutable” evidence in his favor. The series creators think Avery may not have gotten a fair trial as well.

During a Tuesday night appearance on The Late Show With Stephen Colbert, filmmakers Laura Ricciardi and Moira Demos—who spent 10 years in production of Making a Murderer—suggested that the state failed to present Avery with a fair trial. “He could be guilty, but is he guilty beyond a reasonable doubt? Nothing I’ve seen has convinced me of that,” said Demos. She described the crime series as more of a “how-dunit” than a whodunit, revealing the sometimes lengthy processes involved in the criminal justice system.

Avery was arrested for the murder of photographer Teresa Halbach in 2005, just two years after he was released from prison when DNA evidence proved he had been wrongfully convicted of a sexual assault. He was sentenced to life in prison for Halbach’s murder in 2007. Making a Murderer, which chronicles Avery’s court saga in 10 episodes, entertains the possibility that he may have been framed by local authorities motivated to deflect his wrongful conviction lawsuit against Manitowoc County.

The case has become a source of public fascination since the documentary series premiered late last month, and hundreds of thousands have signed petitions aimed at Avery’s release. Prosecutors have argued that the series leaves out crucial information in order to manipulate viewers into siding with Avery.

“One of the things that people take away from the documentary is that poor people don’t have a great shot in our justice system, that they don’t have access to great representation,” said Colbert. “Poor people often get railroaded through the system.”

Research shows a correlation between poverty and incarceration. Americans behind bars had a median income of $19,185 prior to their incarceration—which is 41 percent less than the general population, according to research released last year from the advocacy group Prison Policy Initiative.

In a statement to the Times, Avery’s lawyer, Kathleen Zellner, said she was “confident Mr. Avery’s conviction will be vacated when we present the new evidence and results of our work to the appropriate court.”