'Making a Murderer' co-creator Laura Ricciardi discusses ethical implications of show in light of season 2
Ricciardi talks about the implications of handling a show with such a sensitive subject matter and what the journey has been like
The second season of Netflix's 'Making a Murderer' has been well-received by critics and audience alike. The show's first season dealt with Steven Avery, a man wrongly convicted of rape and then exonerated after spending 18 years in prison. The second season sees Avery and Brendan Dassey (who was accused and convicted of being an accessory to the crime) hire high-profile lawyers to fight their case.
Considering the sensitive subject it deals with, questions of moral and ethical implications of covering such subjects are frequently brought up. Laura Ricciardi, co-director of the show answered these pressing questions in an interview with Den of Geek.
"In telling a story as documentarians, we certainly feel a tremendous responsibility to our subjects, whether they’re people we’ve sat down with directly or just people we’re showing."
To ensure that the facts are in place to tell such a story, the background research is of prime importance to maintain an ethical balance. Ricciardi offers her stance on this, "There is a rigor to our process, and we really take a deep dive. We do a tremendous amount of research and fact-checking and try to use primary source materials – as much as those are available to us. So we try to go directly to the source."
Ricciardi along with Moira Demos are the original creators of the show who spent a large amount with the subjects and their families. Ricciardi talks about notions of partiality and impartiality after engaging with this subject for over a decade, "We don’t take a position on what we’re covering, but at the same time, we have developed relationships with our subjects." She adds, "We’re documentarians. We’re living in the community with them, and we had a tremendous amount of empathy for them."
Ricciardi also discusses how they initially stumbled upon the case of Stephen Avery as graduate film students and why they chose to tell his story, "It’s not as though we were mining for a good murder story. We weren’t at all. He appeared on the front page of the New York Times, and we thought, this just seems like an incredible story."
Putting the legal system to test was also one of the main motivations for the creators of the show. Ricciardi adds, "We were reading that there had been scientific advances and legislative reforms, and that the system really had improved since 1985." Since 20 years had elapsed since Steven's wrongful conviction, the creators believed that they had a unique opportunity to tell his story.
After two seasons, what is the future of 'Making A Murderer?' Ricciardi says "We don’t know. We are open, and I think it really depends, I think part of it, too, would be: is there still an appetite for more of this story? So, we’ll see."