Making a Murderer, a 10-episode Netflix documentary series, follows the twisted legal saga of Steven Avery, a Wisconsin native who served 18 years in prison for the sexual assault and attempted murder of Penny Beerntsen. Avery was exonerated in 2003 but rearrested in 2005 and convicted of a totally different murder after a byzantine sequence of legal maneuvers.
Similar to the hit podcast Serial, the show gains its spellbinding power by delving ever-deeper into the ordinary, messy, ruined lives of those who run, and run afoul of, the criminal justice system. The result is a thrilling—and ambiguous—look at a part of American life typically shrouded in secrecy.
When the series debuted in December, it fed into a growing national conversation about cronyism and corruption in America's judicial systems, prosecutorial misconduct, standards of evidence, and the need for criminal justice reform.