It was hailed as the most binge-worthy show on Netflix when it hit the streaming service in 2015, but there's no way filmmakers Moira Demos and Laura Ricciardo could have foreseen the impact Making a Murderer has had when they started work on it almost 10 years earlier.
The 10-episode documentary thrust the case of Steven Avery, a Wisconsin man sentenced to life in prison for the murder of photographer Teresa Halbach in 2005, into the international spotlight, casting doubt on the methods used to convict him and the American legal system in the process.
Despite Avery's steadfast insistence that he was framed by the same sheriff's department who had falsely convinced and imprisoned him once before, by December 2015, he was broke and had very few legal options left for challenging his incarceration. The same was true of his nephew, Brendan Dassey, who was convicted alongside his uncle as a party to the killing.
Both men needed a miracle, and it came in the form of Making a Murderer. By raising questions about the system that convicted Avery and Dassey, and casting doubt on the legality of the latter's testimony, the show sparked anger and action, eventually resulting in developments in the case that would otherwise have taken years.
Now, almost two years since season one landed on Netflix, a full panel of judges at the US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit in Chicago is due to make a final ruling on whether Dassey's original confession was coerced, and Avery's lawyer Kathleen Zellner has submitted motions to force a retrial on “manifest errors of law and fact, and the development of new evidence”.
If their bids are successful, both men could secure the new hearings they have been seeking for over a decade.