The newly released Netflix documentary Making A Murderer has captivated the attention of viewers across America and has left many people outraged, convinced that Steven Avery is again serving a sentence in a Wisconsin prison for a crime he did not commit. This past week, filmmakers Laura Riccardi and Miora Demos appeared on NBC’s Today Show and announced that since the release of the documentary one of the jurors from Steven Avery’s trial contacted them and said they believe Avery was not proven guilty, was framed by law enforcement and they only agreed to find him guilty because they feared for their safety. This revelation is similar to claims made by dismissed juror Richard Mahler, which is seen by Steven Avery supporters as further proof that he is the victim of a vast conspiracy or that he at least deserves a new trial. However, it proves neither contention and only serves as an another example of two talented filmmakers’ ability to manipulate facts to fool the audience into believing Steven Avery is the real victim and that a flawed American legal system is to blame.
Richard Mahler is the dismissed juror featured in the latter episodes of the Making A Murder series where he was portrayed as another lost hope for Steven Avery. The filmmakers give the audience the impression that Mahler’s family emergency (his daughter’s car accident) wasn’t actually serious enough that he needed to be dismissed from the jury and that had he stayed Steven’s trial would’ve at least ended with a hung jury mistrial, if not outright acquittal. Furthermore, they give the impression that the authorities who informed Mahler of his family emergency exaggerated the circumstances and urgency so that he would feel the need to ask the judge to leave immediately.
This narrative fits nicely with the overall theme of the series and leaves one to speculate that the Manitowoc County Sheriff’s Office was maybe even corrupt enough to somehow get the one juror willing stand up for Steven Avery kicked off the jury. What they don’t tell you, however, is that when Avery raised these issues and called Mahler to testify in his post-conviction motion hearings in support of the allegations the Court flatly rejected Mahler’s testimony, finding him not credible. The Court found that when Mahler was dismissed from the jury he “expressed an imminent concern regarding a car accident, but also an ongoing concern regarding marital issues. While the former concern necessitated that he be excused for the evening or longer, the latter concern indicated that he would not be in a position to return to deliberations.”
As one can clearly see, the whole story surrounding Richard Mahler’s dismissal is far less sinister and suspicious than the series would have you believe. It was not unfair or unreasonable for the judge to dismiss Mahler from the jury given what he was told at the time. Only Mahler knows for sure why he chose to change his story almost three years after the fact, but given how much his story changed one has to wonder if he just wanted notoriety and to be featured in a documentary?
There is no question that Making A Murder is an enthralling series but it is not an honest documentary. Before rushing out to sign meaningless petitions to pardon Steven Avery or doing something even more foolish like donating money to his commissary account or legal defense fund, take some time to look deeper into what the documentary did not show you about the case and remember the real victim is Teresa Halbach.