‘Making a Murderer’: The 1 Thing Documentary Makers Left Out to Make Steven Avery Seem Innocent

It’s the question of the decade: Is Steven Avery guilty or innocent of murdering Teresa Halbach?

Armchair detectives are more common than ever these days. People can’t help but want to try to solve crimes – especially when the details are clear as mud. Like in the case of Steven Avery.

But the one thing audiences forget is that the film producers might have an agenda while telling the story. Approaching a story with bias is common – and since these stories are made to entertain, they often leave out certain details that would distract from the narrative. Critics claim this is what happened with Making a Murderer on Netflix.

Steven Avery mugshot in Netflix's Making a Murderer
Steven Avery in Making a Murderer | Netflix

What is the story with Steven Avery?

Most people have heard of the massively popular documentary about convicted felon Steven Avery, who is currently serving a life sentence for the murder of photographer Teresa Halbach. Fans have become obsessed with the case for multiple reasons: for one, Steven Avery was already wrongly convicted of a crime once and served 18 years in prison for a brutal sexual assault he didn’t commit. Second, supporters think Avery was targeted by the Manitowoc Sheriff’s office due to a pending $36 million lawsuit.

And then there’s the case itself. Nothing is clear, and there’s plenty of reason to suspect that evidence could have been tampered with. The lawsuit made local police involvement a conflict of interest, but they ignored that rule entirely.

Do documentary producers think Steven Avery is innocent?

Making a Murderer
Prison | Netflix via YouTube

It’s a fact: telling the story of a man wrongly convicted twice makes for far more interesting television than reporting the facts on a guilty felon. Whether it was due to the evidence or some other reason, there’s no question that Making a Murderer creators Laura Ricciardi and Moira Demos believed that Avery didn’t murder Halbach. They even left out key evidence that calls his innocence into question.

The producers conveniently neglect a few historical details that make Steven Avery less of a sympathetic character. There was that whole incident where he tortured a cat, which was barely dwelt on during the show. The filmmakers made it seem like no big deal, but really Steven Avery soaked the family cat in gasoline and lit it on fire – for fun. It was a depraved act that didn’t get its due on screen.

Steven Avery also talked a big game the first time he was behind bars. His prison mates recall how he always spoke about his intention of building a torture chamber where he could rape and assault young women once he was released. He even drew up plans for this room of horror.

Steven Avery
Steven Avery | Netflix via YouTube

This important detail was left out of the documentary

One of the most important aspects of any investigations is establishing a timeline. The New Yorker brings up a valid question: why did Making a Murderer creators decide not to include the timeline of event in their documentary?

As one article notes, “Although “Making a Murderer” is structured chronologically, it fails to provide a clear time line of events, and it never answers such basic questions as when, where, and how Halbach died. Potentially critical issues are raised and summarily dropped; we hear about suspicious calls to and messages on Halbach’s cell phone, but these are never explored or even raised again. In the end, despite ten hours of running time, the story at the heart of ‘Making a Murderer’ remains a muddle.” 

True, there’s no way to determine exactly what happened on that fateful day. But it seems like the documentary filmmakers could have tried harder to make sense of the timeline of the crime. Or perhaps they chose to leave it out for a more sinister reason.

Did they leave out the timeline on purpose because it would have incriminated Steven Avery? It’s possible.