We Spoke to 'Making a Murderer' Prosecutor Ken Kratz

Kratz criticized the Netflix documentary series harshly for withholding the whole story of Steven Avery's trial and conviction.
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Kratz criticized the Netflix documentary series harshly for withholding the whole story of Steven Avery's trial and conviction.
Photo: Morry Gash / AP

Photo: Morry Gash / AP

It’s been over ten years since Ken Kratz helped put Steven Avery behind bars for a second time, in a mind-boggling murder trial that is the subject of the new Netflix documentary series, Making a Murderer. The series documents the trial of Avery and his 16-year-old nephew Brendan Dassey, who were both convicted of the October 31, 2005 murder of local Wisconsin photographer Teresa Halbach. 

Making a Murderer exposed some serious flaws in the criminal justice system, along with unflattering personal details about Kratz that did not appear to be relevant to the case, but that have nonetheless help cast Kratz as the villain in a narrative audiences are eating up: That Avery was framed by the Manitowoc County Sheriff Department as he was pursuing a $36 million dollar lawsuit against the state for his earlier wrongful conviction.

But Kratz believes the public outrage over Avery and Dassey’s convictions are misplaced, and instead has accused Netflix of presenting a skewed and incomplete picture of Avery’s trial and conviction. Kratz, who is now a criminal defense attorney, spoke to Maxim about his frustrations with Making a Murderer.

Are you surprised that Avery and Dassey’s ten-year-old convictions have become such a hot topic?
Not at all. If you pick and choose and edit clips over a ten-year span, you’re going to be able to spoon-feed a movie audience so they conclude what you want them to conclude. That the theory of planted evidence...is accepted by some people isn’t surprising at all. The piece is done very well, and I would have come to the same conclusion if that was the only material I was presented with.

Can you clarify exactly why you didn’t participate [via interviews] in Making a Murderer?                                                               
In February 2013, the filmmakers were negotiating on a project with Netflix that was an advocacy piece created by and for the Steven Avery defense. There’s nothing about it that looked like a documentary.

I had contact with [filmmaker] Laura Riccardi and I said I wanted to see [an earlier incarnation of the film that had previously been screened at a festival]. I said, “I’m agreeing to an interview, I want to know what you are alleging and what your angle is.” They refused. They said, “we’re not going to share anything with you,” from the film that I referenced. So I thought, well, this looks exactly like what I thought it was — I’m being set up. If I’m not being provided the same opportunity as the defense, if I’m not being shown a finished product that thousands of people had [already] seen. There’s no justification for not showing that to me unless you are trying to ambush me.

How did you feel about your portrayal in Making a Murderer?
I understand that my demeanor may have been very brash, even overconfident ... there was bit more bravado that I usually have, but this case kind of required that. All that notwithstanding, [the filmmakers] took lots of opportunities to mention things that happened to me three years after the case. [Ed note: this included a sexting scandal in which he sent lewd messages to a victim of domestic violence, admission of sexual addiction and a substance abuse problem.] If they aren’t casting me as a villain, you’ve got to ask, why would you include those things about me? They don't even tell you 80 percent of the evidence that the jury saw. They purposely kept all of that evidence that I showed the jury that absolutely discounted this evidence-planting theory.

What was some of the evidence that was excluded from Making a Murderer?
Avery’s DNA was found under [Teresa’s car’s] trunk. [Later, and in a separate correspondence, Kratz said this DNA evidence was found under the hood, suggesting that Kratz misspoke at one point in the interview.] It wasn’t blood. It was from his sweaty hands. Do the cops also have a vial of his sweat that they are carrying around? The evidence conclusively shows that Steven Avery’s hand was under the hood when he insists he never touched her car.

Teresa’s phone, camera and [other contents of her purse] were found 20 feet from Avery's door, burned in his barrel...Two people saw him putting that stuff in there. This isn’t contested. It was all presented as evidence at the jury trial, and the documentary people don’t tell you that.

One thing Making a Murderer doesn’t address is motive. Why would Steven Avery want to kill Teresa Halbach? 
Avery said he left his anger in prison -- thats not true at all. [In prison,] he created diagram of a torture chamber, [telling other inmates] "I intend to torture and rape and murder young women" after his release. The judge decided not to allow that evidence; he said it was too prejudicial.

Steven’s got a legitimate claim to being upset and angry that he was unlawfully convicted. There isn’t anybody who disagreed he was legitimately wronged. He was poised to have a much better life from that point forward. But his hatred and this desire to hang onto it was so prevalent in Mr. Avery that it came out.

Ten years later, are you still convinced that Steven Avery and Brendan Dassey are responsible for the death of Teresa Halbach?
I am convinced that Avery murdered and mutilated Halbach, and I believe that Brendan Dassey raped her and participated in the murder and helped dispose of the body. I also believe that without Steven, Brendan would not have murdered her.

My sympathy was with the 16-year-old kid. He’s probably a good-hearted kid who was just curious and made some bad choices. It’s so incredibly sad, not so much in my opinion that [Dassey] did it, but that his uncle made him do it; made him cut her throat. His uncle sealed his fate, to ensure his silence.

The above interview has been condensed and edited, and includes content from both a phone conversation and an email correspondence.