NEW YORK — A member of the jury that declared Steven Avery guilty actually believes Avery was not guilty but was afraid to say so at the time, the makers of the sensational Netflix documentary series “Making a Murderer” said Tuesday.
The unnamed juror reached out to the filmmakers shortly before the series debuted in December and followed up again after watching the ten episodes.
“They said they thought that the world needed to know what happened,” Moira Demos told CNNMoney.
Demos’s producing partner Laura Ricciardi said the juror believes a retrial is warranted — somewhere far from Wisconsin, where the original trial took place.
In 2007 Avery was found guilty of murdering Teresa Halbach but not guilty of a charge of mutilating a corpse.
“Making a Murderer” recounts the trial and raises numerous questions about possible police and prosecutorial misconduct. Since its premiere on Netflix two weeks ago, it has captivated viewers and caused hundreds of thousands of people to sign petitions supporting Avery.
Meanwhile, the lead prosecutor in the case, Ken Kratz, has denounced the documentary as biased in favor of the defense.
Avery’s defense attorneys argued that Avery could have been framed for Halbach’s murder. At the time of Halbach’s death, Avery was suing local authorities for compensation due to his wrongful conviction in a 1985 rape case. (The conviction was overturned in 2003.)
Ricciardi said the anonymous juror believes Avery was framed.
The person is insisting on anonymity, she said, out of an abiding fear of local law enforcement.
“One of the things the juror said to us was that if law enforcement could do it to Steven Avery, then law enforcement could do it to me,” Ricciardi said.
Demos and Ricciardi first disclosed their contact with the juror on NBC’s “Today” show on Tuesday morning.
In a followup phone interview later in the day, the pair said they first heard from the juror after Netflix issued a press release announcing “Making a Murderer” in November.
The juror wrote to Demos. Then they spoke by phone. “We asked, ‘Why are you reaching out now? You haven’t seen the series,'” Demos recalled. “That first conversation was fairly preliminary, but the juror expressed to us that they were just glad that the story was getting out there.”
Demos also recalled the person saying, “What can I say? I’m the reason the justice system failed.”
“But clearly this is something that sticks with this person,” she added.
At that time — before seeing the documentary — the juror said they believed Avery was not guilty of the murder, which means the person was not influenced by the documentary or the public response to it, Ricciardi said.
The only juror seen in the “Making a Murderer” series is a man who was excused from deliberations due to a family emergency.
Demos said the 12 jurors who convicted Avery made a pact not to speak to the media afterward and “requested that nobody try to contact them; we respected that.”
Ricciardi said that the juror who contacted them “has been living with this decision for eight years now.”
“It seems to us, based on what this person told us, that they were choosing essentially between their personal safety and freedom versus having to live with the guilt of having voted the way they did,” she added.
On the “Today” show, Ricciardi said the juror “told us the verdicts in Steven’s trial were a compromise. That was the actual word the juror used, and went on to describe the jurors ultimately trading votes in the jury room. Explicitly discussing, ‘If you vote guilty on this count, I will vote not guilty on this count.’ That was a significant revelation.”
According to the juror, the finding of not guilty on the count of mutilating a corpse — a “split verdict” — was intended to “send a message to the appellate courts,” Demos said.
“They thought that Steven would get a new trial,” Demos added. “That was sort of their plan and it didn’t work out that way.”
Wisconsin’s Supreme Court rejected Avery’s later bid.
Demos said the juror told them that “they were afraid if they held out for a mistrial — that it would be easy to identify which juror had done that and they were fearful for their own safety.”