‘Making a Murderer’: could we see an English version?

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By Katie King on

Don’t hold your breath, says top criminal barrister


A blogging criminal barrister thinks the law students’ favourite documentary series ‘Making a Murderer’ is not likely to generate a UK spin-off because of differing rules on open justice.

Over the festive period and into the New Year, viewers have been transfixed by the Netflix documentary series. ‘Making a Murderer’ chronicles the trials and tribulations of Steven Avery and his nephew Brendan Dassey, both of whom are charged over the murder of a young photographer.

Criminal barrister Dan Buntingblogging about the series — describes it as “gripping and compelling”. He’s unsure, however, that anything like it could ever be made in the UK.

There are a number of differences between the English and US criminal justice systems. The length of time a murderer serves in prison and the appeal process are but two examples mentioned by the barrister. But the biggest difference of all, says the 2 Dr Johnson’s Buildings hotshot, is “the way that such a documentary would be handled in England.”

Television cameras are not allowed to record criminal trials England. We are — as Bunting points out — a “much more closed” legal system. Viewers’ fascination with ‘Making a Murderer’ hinges on first-hand testimonies, police radio calls, and in-court footage. On home soil, however:

[T]he police and prosecution release very, very little. You would not get videos of the police interview, and probably not even the witness statements, let alone the full set of case papers.

Whether Avery and Dassey are factually guilty of the crime — a question that Bunting does not seek to answer — the story provokes questions about the utility of a system that excludes television cameras from trial courts.

Bunting powerfully ends his analysis with a moment of reflection about our closed justice system.

He says:

There are thousands of… Steven Averys in prison protesting that they were wrongly convicted. Not all of them have the resources or access to the media to prove their case. And not all of them will be guilty, which should be a sobering thought to all of us.


The world is going crazy for the lawyers from Netflix’s ‘Making a Murderer’ [Legal Cheek]