Debuting on Netflix last December, true crime documentary series Making a Murderer hit a nerve with the masses like very few TV documentaries had done before. Part of a recent wave of programs - both fiction and nonfiction - concerning real murder cases, Making a Murderer became the proverbial water-cooler discussion starter, with seemingly everyone with access to a Netflix account weighing in with their personal take on the facts and evidence presented during the series' 10 riveting episodes.
Written and directed by the duo of Laura Ricciardi and Moira Demos, Making a Murderer took an entire decade to complete, and focuses on the circumstances surrounding the 2005 killing of Wisconsin woman Teresa Halbach. Ultimately tried and convicted of the crime were Steven Avery and his then-17-year-old nephew Brendan Dassey. Both were given life sentences in prison. Avery had already served 18 years in prison on different charges prior to Halbach's murder, but was ultimately exonerated of any involvement in the prior crime.
While there has been no recent concrete movement on Avery's side of the Halbach case, TMZ reports that a federal judge has overturned Dassey's conviction, for several listed reasons. The judge ruled that Dassey's rights were violated by being questioned by police without an adult present. The judge also added that Dassey's learning disabilities made him susceptible to coercive tactics employed by interrogators, including repeatedly telling the teen that they already knew all the facts of the crime, in an effort to encourage Dassey to simply corroborate the details given and confess.
Whatever one's individual opinion on Dassey's guilt or innocence in this matter, he won't actually be getting out of jail for a little while yet, and there's a chance he may not get released at all. Following today's ruling, Wisconsin prosecutors now have 90 days to decide whether or not to retry Dassey for the crime. If, and only if, they opt not to do so in that period will Dassey be freed. That said, one wonders whether the state will want to risk the likely public uproar that would result from dragging Dassey right back into the legal system after a 12-year prison stint that many feel was undeserved to begin with.
Since the announcement of Dassey's conviction being overturned, Ricciardi and Demos have issued a statement, as reported by THR:
"Today there was a major development for the subjects in our story and this recent news shows the criminal justice system at work. As we have done for the past 10 years, we will continue to document the story as it unfolds, and follow it wherever it may lead."
With Netflix having already announced plans to continue Making a Murderer with a second season, one assumes that Dassey finally getting released would serve as quite the emotional centerpiece next time out. It's quite rare that a TV series has this profound an effect on reality.
There is no word on when Making A Murderer season 2 will be available to stream on Netflix, but we will keep you updated.