Some things do not turn out as intended: Just ask Laura Ricciardi and Moira Demos, directors of the hit Netflix docu-series “Making A Murderer.” In an appearance on “The Daily Show with Trevor Noah,” the two filmmakers discussed their original intentions behind making the film and how the 10-part miniseries’ success has generated debate about Steven Avery’s guilt or innocence, a totally unintended area of discussion.
Laura Ricciardi and Moira Demos, in the segment “In Search Of Justice In ‘Making A Murderer’,” told Trevor Noah on Monday (January 18) night’s “The Daily Show” that the original intention of putting together the project that eventually became “Making A Murderer” was to show the criminal justice system in all its glories and its failings. Demos said that she and Ricciardi were working on their doctoral theses at Columbia when they read the story about Steven Avery’s arrest for murder in 2005. Knowing his backstory — that his was the second case in US judicial history where DNA evidence exonerated him of a crime he did not commit, namely a rape that had seen him sent to prison for 18 years — prompted them to follow the case and film the legal proceedings to highlight advances and inadequacies in the judicial system. “The more we talked about it,” Demos said, “the more it just seemed as if his story would be this incredible window through which to look at our justice system.”
Trevor Noah brought up the fact that many people were looking at the movie and seeing the Steven Avery side of the matter, some going so far as to sign petitions to government figures to attempt to gain his release from prison. He prompted: “But that is not why you made the movie.”
“No, not at all,” Ricciardi supplied. “I mean we did not intend to have an impact on that particular case. Our objective really was… You know, with 20/20 hindsight, we could look back at the first case, we knew that the justice system had failed Steven Avery in 1985 and continued to fail him for another 18 years while he was wrongly imprisoned. And what we really wanted to explore and understand was the extent to which the justice system had made meaningful progress since 1985.”
To Noah’s question of whether or not they felt they succeeded, Demos replied that there was “no question” that advances had been made, such as with DNA evidence and “meaningful legislative reforms.” She went on: “But I think its pretty clear from what we witnessed and what we documented in the series that we have a long way to go before we can have a reliable system.”
Noah then noted that the documentary had “reignited the discussion” of Steven Avery’s case, bringing people back that are offering stories — like an ex-fiancee that claims Avery was not innocent and another who told Dr. Phil McGraw that she believed he was — that do not seem to have been part of the original case. “Everything has come back to life in this story. And everyone is talking about the innocence or lack of innocence in this, and yet that’s not the conversation you were trying to start. Do you guys feel as if you’ve created a monster?”
After sharing a laugh. “Sometimes it feels like that, yeah,” Moira Demos acknowledged. “You know, that’s another conversation. They’re not talking about the series. They’re not talking about the important issues that we need to be talking about.”
She then mentions former district attorney Ken Kratz doing interviews and ensuring that only the first three episodes of “Making A Murderer” are focused upon and not the rest of the series. Noah subsequently agrees that such goings-on distracts from looking at the justice system in its entirety.
After congratulating the two directors on the success of “Making A Murderer,” for at least getting a dialogue started about the problems in the justice system. Noah went on to jokingly congratulate them for “getting white people to [notice] — White people are like: ‘This can’t be happening. Oh my God, how is an innocent man being oppressed by the system.’ And black people are like: ‘Exactly. That’s the s*** I been talking about.'”
“The Daily Show” host then said he had read that the success of “Making A Murderer” had generated talk of a second season and asked if there would be a focus again on Steven Avery or if they would look elsewhere for material, sarcastically suggesting that other cases of oppression might be difficult to find. Ricciardi and Demos said they would likely move on to other subjects.
Noah asked one final question. Will it take a decade to do the next series? “No,” Laura Ricciardi quickly replied. Demos answered at the same time: “I hope not.”
The Steven Avery case documented by Ricciardi and Demos has become one of Netflix’s most popular programs and a hotly debated topic of interest. Avery, along with his teenaged nephew Brendan Dassey, was convicted of the murder of freelance photographer Teresa Halbach in 2007. The two men were sentenced to life in prison. An appeal to overturn the conviction in 2011 was denied by the Wisconsin Court of Appeals.