Life in prison for Steven Avery and Brendan Dassey reflects the limitations of their incarceration as well as their fame since Making a Murderer premiered
A skeptical account of their prosecution for the 2005 murder of photographer Teresa Halbach, the series brought national attention to allegations of planted evidence, a coerced confession and a coverup.
It inspired fervent debate around the country about Avery and Dassey’s guilt, and it returned for 10 new episodes on Friday, narrowing in on the push for Avery and Dassey to be free. (The series has been criticized by the Halbach family, who again declined to participate.)
“There was such a tremendous response to the first season,” says co-director Laura Ricciardi. “And we understood that people had lots of questions at the end.”
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“The world you see in part 2 is in many ways a new world because of part 1,” co-director Moira Demos tells PEOPLE. That includes increased support for and scrutiny of both Avery and Dassey, as well as outsiders looking to capitalize on their raised profiles.
“People are selling friendly letters for money or writing fake letters,” Demos says.
Avery, now 56, has twice gotten engaged while in custody — with the tabloid media following along at every turn — and he spends time at the maximum-security Waupun Correctional Institution working in the kitchen and receiving visits from family and a few close friends, says his attorney, Kathleen Zellner.
Still, she says, “It’s hell on Earth.”
Zellner says Avery is “at the beginning” of his appeal process, but his nephew’s hopes are dimmer since the U.S. Supreme Court declined to take up his case this summer. His next legal steps are not known, though his attorneys say they are continuing the fight.
Held at the maximum-security Columbia Correctional Institution, Dassey, who turned 29 the same day part 2 was released, occupies himself writing letters — like his uncle, he receives many supportive messages — or else reading and watching TV, though neither one has been able to see Making a Murderer.
Dassey’s family “has been unfailing” in their support, according to Steven Drizin, one of his two lawyers.
“Life in prison isn’t easy,” says Laura Nirider, Drizin’s co-counsel.
Dassey is “a hopeful guy,” Nirider says, “and he’s somebody who throughout all of this still manages to have faith that one day the truth is going to come out.”