By Shereen Siewert
A federal court in Wisconsin ruled this week that retired Manitowoc County Sheriff’s Office Lt. Andrew Colborn’s suit against “Making a Murderer” filmmakers and Netflix can proceed.
Colborn claims the docuseries led viewers to believe that he framed Steven Avery and Brendan Dassey, who were convicted in the rape and murder of Teresa Halbach in 2005.
Court documents outline the background and basis for the lawsuit in a May 26 court filing.
On December 18, 2015, court documents state, Netflix first aired what became an extraordinarily popular documentary series, which relates the events surrounding multiple criminal and civil legal proceedings involving Steven Avery. As recounted in the documentary, in 1985, Avery was wrongfully convicted of raping a female jogger in Manitowoc County. After serving just over half of his 32-year prison sentence, Avery was released when DNA evidence showed another man had committed the assault. Avery then pursued civil claims against Manitowoc County and two elected officials.
Amidst that litigation, a third legal proceeding erupted when Avery was charged with the murder of Teresa Halbach, a young woman who went missing while on assignment photographing used cars for sale, including a vehicle for sale at Avery’s residence. A jury ultimately convicted Avery of Halbach’s murder. His appeals from that second conviction have been rejected and he remains in state prison.
In the ruling, the court rejected several of Netflix’s arguments, determining that Colborn properly served the defendants and adequately pleaded defamation claims. But his attempt to pursue negligence claims against Netflix and the other defendants in the case is barred by the First Amendment. Laura Ricciardi, Moira Demos, and Chrome Media LLC are also defendants in the case.