Why a Reporter Who Covered the Avery Case Is Launching a ‘Making a Murderer’ Rebuttal Podcast

Says evidence was 'selectively omitted'

Dan O'Donnell's new podcast on iHeartRadio, Rebutting a Murderer, isn't just some random person's take on the popular Netflix documentary series Making a Murderer. O'Donnell, a Milwaukee radio reporter, covered the case and appears throughout the series, at various news conferences and pacing around courthouse hallways.

The popular Netflix series, which is being prepped for new episodes, is both captivating and polarizing. O'Donnell, who was reluctant to watch at first, told Adweek that "half of Wisconsin" binge-watched the show within two days of its debut. After being urged by friends and colleagues to watch, he did. And he didn't agree with everything he saw. So that's how the 10-episode Rebutting a Murderer came to be.

"It's the most visually stunning, captivating documentary series I've ever seen. It's like, Fargo meets the Sopranos. It was beautiful," said O'Donnell, who now works for WISN radio. "But as I was getting into it, I was like 'wait a second. That's not how I remember it.'"

Adweek: How did you come to cover the Steven Avery case?

Dan O'Donnell: I covered the Steven Avery case for the radio station I used to work for, news radio 620 WTMJ in Milwaukee. I had just graduated from law school in June 2006 and I loved radio and broadcasting. I decided, instead of practicing law, I'm going to go into broadcasting full-time. At that time the Avery case was very big. We knew this was going to trial, and a few months before, my boss said, "Hey Dan, you have a legal background. What would you say to sort of putting your life on hold for a good two months, going up to Calumet County and covering this for us?" At the time I was 24, 25-years-old and I said "Yeah, I don't have any kids. Let's do it." I covered it every day. I would do hourly reports. I would do live interviews on all of our shows, I was filing occasional reports for our network affiliate ABC News radio, and this was before Twitter. Instead of sending out tweets with all the updates, I was doing a minute-by-minute almost blog. It was sort of like a timeline of events. I covered it as a news reporter from pretty much start to finish.

Were you familiar with the case before covering it?

The Steven Avery case was huge. I think the film does a good job of portraying, when Avery was freed in 2003, [that] he was like a hero in Wisconsin. And then in 2005, when it became clear that he was the primary suspect in this 25-year-old woman's disappearance, it was like a punch to the gut.  

Filmmakers Moira Demos and Laura Ricciardi had been documenting the case since shortly after Avery's arrest in 2005. Did they ask you to participate in the documentary?

I recall we all had to sign releases. The filmmakers gave us all releases. Of course I signed it without even thinking about it. I kind of joked to them that I'm a radio guy so sometimes I won't be shaven and I certainly won't be wearing a suit. I'm the one that announces, I think in episode eight, that a verdict is in. They captured me pacing around on the phone giving a live report.

What issues do you have with the finished product? 

I understand that the filmmakers acknowledge they were there with a narrative in mind. However, they selectively omitted what I believe to be key evidence. They selectively glossed over key evidence that tends to show Avery's guilt. Moreover, what they did with respect to their frame-up allegations/conspiracy theory was not to provide any actual affirmative evidence to support their conclusion. Rather, based on supposed motive and opportunity, they made insinuations and vague allegations of wrongdoing. The filmmakers are instead relying on us to supply the conclusion that they've already drawn.