A juror who helped convict Wisconsin man Steven Avery for a murder that is documented in the wildly popular Netflix series Making a Murderer, reportedly told filmmakers they thought Avery was innocent and had been framed.
Laura Ricciardi, who co-produced and co-directed the 10-part series, revealed on the Today show on Tuesday that the juror reached out to her and her partner Moira Demos directly and called the verdicts in the trial that convicted Avery of Teresa Halbach's 2005 murder in Wisconsin a "compromise." They were told that the jurors had traded votes in the jury room, she said, "explicitly discussing, 'If you vote guilty on this count, I will vote not guilty on this count.' " Avery was convicted of murder and illegally possessing a firearm, but was found not guilty of mutilating a corpse.
The unidentified juror contacted the filmmakers after the documentary series aired and immediately became popular. Ricciardi and Demos have not yet verified the juror's claim with other jurors in the case.
"They told us really that they were afraid that if they held out for a mistrial that it would be easy to identify which juror had done that, and they were fearful for their own safety,'' Demos said. "They believed that if there was a split verdict like this, that that would send a message to the appellate courts. They thought that Steven would get a new trial — that was sort of their plan — but obviously it didn't work out that way."
The juror "told us that they believe Steven Avery was not proven guilty," said Ricciardi. "They believe Steven was framed by law enforcement and that he deserves a new trial, and if he receives a new trial, in their opinion, it should take place far away from Wisconsin."
Ricciardi and Demos have been accused of bias in favor of Avery in their depiction of the events that led to his conviction for murder. They said that the juror would be willing to come forward as a source if a new trial is called.
Avery, now 53, is serving life without parole for Holbach's murder. He previously served 18 years for a rape he did not commit before he was exonerated by DNA evidence. The series explores that rape conviction and the alleged complicity of Manitowoc County law enforcement in withholding key evidence and information that could have exonerated Avery earlier or kept him out of jail.
It then delves into the murder trial and explores whether he was framed by authorities. The events depicted in the documentary have sparked outrage among viewers, thousands of whom have signed at least two petitions calling for Avery's exoneration.
The prosecutor in the murder case said that the series omits crucial facts and key evidence that led to Avery's conviction in 2007, calling the suggestion that he was framed "irresponsible and inconsistent with a consideration of all the evidence presented."
The directors presented "misinformation" to advance their own agenda and engage more viewers, he told the New York Times.
Meanwhile, Manitowoc County Sheriff Robert Herrmann dismissed the series' findings in an interview with the Hollywood Reporter.
"People are passing judgment on a documentary, if you can call it that, that shows four hours of courtroom testimony when the jury and judge heard weeks of courtroom testimony," Hermann said. "Obviously when you watch it, you can see the defense and family of Steve Avery are embedded with the filmmakers and [the audience is] drawing the wrong conclusion. I feel strongly that justice has been served."
But the directors said the only intention behind the documentary was to "start a dialogue."
"I'm sure a piece of that dialogue is people's desire to have more information about what happened to Teresa Halbach, and if somebody finds more information, I think that's a good thing," said Demos. "I think that's what she deserves."