By Steve Schuster
They’re back and coming to a television screen near you. Steven Avery, Ken Kratz, Andrew Colborn, Tom Fassbender may soon return to your living room in a never-been-seen-before series, “Convicting a Murderer.”
The new series is far from another season or sequel to the controversial Netflix series, “Making a Murderer.” In fact, “Convicting a Murderer” was actually made as a rebuttal to the original Netflix docuseries, according to Ken Kratz, the original prosecutor of the Avery case.
Avery is currently serving life in prison after being found guilty for the murder of Teresa Halbach. Halbach was murdered on Oct. 31, 2005. For the past 18 years, Avery has had a number of new criminal defense attorneys who have all been unsuccessful at his release. However, Avery’s attorney Kathleen Zellner remains optimistic that new evidence will prove her client’s innocence.
The Netflix series “Making a Murderer,” which originally aired in 2015, received criticism from the media, government officials and the general public for allegedly only telling one side of Avery’s story, revictimizing Halbach and her family, as well as incriminating law enforcement professionals.
“I watched ‘Making a Murderer,’ did some research and found out I was lied to,” said Shawn Rech, director of “Convicting a Murderer” at Transition Studios who also noted that the original series was “just layered and layered all of this nonsense.”
“Making a Murderer was cut to the integrity of a Howard Stern bit,” Rech added.
Rech noted that the original Netflix series “Making a Murderer” was the subject of litigation in Federal court from a libel case filed by Colborn (Colburn v. Netflix), who was a retired police officer. Colburn’s attorneys said that the Netflix series falsely portrays that he planted evidence, attempting to frame Avery. In 2021, a Federal judge ruled in favor of Colborn. The ruling against Netflix stated that “Neither The Supreme Court nor the Seventh Circuit has ever suggested a speaker enjoys unconditional First Amendment immunity for making defamatory statements simply because the statements concern legal proceedings.”
However, on March 10, 2023, the Court ruled in favor of Netflix, Demos, and Ricciardi granting a Summary Judgement.
“In the end, Colborn’s turn in Making a Murderer may not have been to his liking, but that does not make it defamatory. Few aspire to enter the cultural zeitgeist on such controversial terms. That possibility, though, is a necessary byproduct of the freedom of press that the First Amendment protects. If media could portray us only at our best, we would be a country of antiseptic caricatures and less intelligent for it,” Judge Brett H Ludwig said.
According to Rech, although the new series was supposed to air a couple of years ago, he is optimistic it will air early summer 2023. Rech said television networks are currently in the process of actively biding on the 10-episode season. Each of the episodes is about one-hour long, he added.
Rech says that the new series — being called “a Season of Truth” — tells a more complete story and tells the truth about Wisconsin law enforcement. Unlike the original “Making a Murderer” series, the new series “Convicting a Murderer” shows the forest through the trees.
“We don’t tell people what to think. We tell the complete story. Law enforcement was falsely portrayed dishonestly in ‘Making a Murderer.’ You’re going to hear law enforcement respond directly to the false accusations made in ‘Making a Murderer,’” Rech added.
During an exclusive interview with the Wisconsin Law Journal, Kratz praised the series.
“’Making a Murderer’ fooled millions of Netflix subscribers into thinking Wisconsin law enforcement officers planted physical evidence, leading to an innocent man’s conviction for a murder he never committed,” he said. “Since that time, attacks against police and prosecutors have become more egregious, and with such frequency as to cause a dramatic shift in public perception, with predictable tragic consequences. Efforts to defund the police, reform criminal justice procedures and skew the public safety narrative towards the accused have thrown many historically law-biding communities into chaos.
“‘Making a Murderer’ bears much of the responsibility for this outcome,” Kratz added.
“It’s time for the public to see just how ‘Making a Murderer’ fabricated events and courtroom testimony, all for the purpose of entertainment,” Kratz added. “Hopefully those justice professionals who have lost their reputations and careers, like me, as a direct result of this deceptive and defamatory TV show will be vindicated,” Kratz added.
The Wisconsin Law Journal reached out to Netflix, Moira Demos and Laura Ricciardi — the creators of the original “Making a Murderer” series. Demos and Ricciardi did not immediately respond for comment. Erika Masonhall, a spokeswoman for Netflix said, “Thanks for the opportunity, but we’ll decline to comment.”
This story has been updated.