WARNING This story contains spoilers about “Making a Murderer.”
There are two types of people in the world: Those who are totally into the Netflix docuseries “Making a Murderer” and those who haven’t watched it.
We get it. You are bingeing on other shows, or — the more popular excuse of many who miss out on pop culture phenomena — you’re busy “reading books.”
Whatever the reason you haven’t gotten hooked on the addictive true crime series a decade in the making, don’t worry; we are here for you. Here are five things to know about “Making a Murderer” so you can join in on the conversation.
Steven Avery spent 18 years behind bars after being wrongfully convicted of sexual assault.
Avery, a native of Manitowoc, Wisconsin, was convicted of rape in 1985 and imprisoned for 18 years.
He maintained his innocence, and family members gave him an alibi for the time of the crime. The victim, Penny Beerntsen, identified him from a photo lineup (with some assistance from authorities, the series says), and a forensic examiner testified at the trial that a hair recovered from her shirt was consistent with Avery’s.
Years later, Avery was exonerated after DNA evidence linked a hair found on the victim to Gregory Allen, a convicted felon who bore a resemblance to Avery.
The Netflix series investigates how Avery’s arrest came after other run-ins with local authorities, which included his threatening a female cousin who was married to an law enforcement officer.
Beerntsen recently told The Marshall Project that she offered Avery an apology, to which he responded, “It’s OK, Penny. It’s over.”
“One of the things that really troubled me is that I was one of the only people who apologized to Steve,” she said. “It would have been nice if the prosecutor and sheriff had said, ‘Actually, we all got it wrong.’ I felt like I was the only one taking any responsibility.”
Avery filed a $36 million civil suit for wrongful incarceration; he was later arrested and charged with murdering Teresa Halbach.
Avery was released in 2003 and filed suit against Manitowoc County for wrongful conviction and imprisonment. He settled the suit for $400,000.
Two years later, he was arrested for the death of car photographer Teresa Halbach, who had visited his family’s auto salvage yard.
The prosecutors laid out their case: Halbach’s Toyota RAV4 (which had blood in it, including Avery’s) was found on the Avery family’s lot. Tissue and bone fragments that matched Halbach’s DNA profile were found outside Avery’s mobile home. In addition, Avery’s then-16-year-old nephew, Brendan Dassey, confessed to authorities that he had assisted his uncle in raping and killing her.
Both men were sentenced to life in prison and remain incarcerated.
Many viewers believe that Avery and his nephew were railroaded.
Dassey recanted his confession, and Avery has insisted that he was framed for the murder by authorities angry over his lawsuit. “Making a Murderer” documents many of the elements of the case that have bothered observers.
For example, Dassey, who has a low IQ, was questioned without his mother present and appeared to be eager to tell sheriff’s officers what they wanted to hear. Some viewers believe that the sheriff’s office planted evidence to frame Avery for the crime.
Hundreds of thousands have now signed petitions calling for Avery and Dassey to be pardoned and released.
Former Calumet County district attorney Ken Kratz has accused “Making a Murderer” filmmakers Laura Ricciardi and Moira Demos of presenting only evidence that vindicated Avery, a charge they have denied.
The pair now say an unnamed juror from the murder trial reached out to them because the juror believed in Avery’s innocence but was afraid to say so at the time.
“They said they thought that the world needed to know what happened,” Demos told CNNMoney.
But not everyone is sold.
David Harsanyi, senior editor for the online magazine The Federalist, wrote a story headlined ” ‘Making A Murderer’ Subject Steven Avery Is Guilty As Hell.”
Manitowoc County Sheriff Robert Hermann has said he believes that justice was served, and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker told CNN affiliate WQOW that he would not intervene.
His defense attorneys are now Internet heartthrobs.
Dean Strang and Jerome Buting have been passionate about justice being served, and now the Web is heated up about them.
Strang and Buting are now the subject of lots of Internet crushing, with one Twitter user saying, “If it’s okay to be in love with two men that aren’t your husband, I’m in love with Dean Strang and Jerry Buting.”
Even actress Kristen Bell is into them.
Fans are trying to crack the case.
Reddit is on the case.
The Internet forum is now the scene of all types of theories, and fans are gathering there to discuss such topics as evidence an alternative suspects.
Wondering if you missed anything after watching the Netflix hit? Relive the trial day to day from our sister station FOX6.