A retired Wisconsin sheriff’s detective, Andrew Colborn, is suing Netflix for defamation, alleging that the hit docu-series Making a Murderer falsely claims he planted evidence to frame Steven Avery and Brendan Dassey for murder, Variety reports.
The suit, filed in Manitowoc County Circuit Court in Wisconsin, alleges that the series and its filmmakers “omitted, distorted, and falsified material and significant facts in an effort to portray [Colborn] as a corrupt police officer who planted evidence to frame an innocent man. Defendants did so with actual malice and in order to make the film more profitable and more succesful… sacrificing and defining [Colborn’s] character and reputation in the process.”
Along with Netflix, Making a Murderer directors Laura Ricciardi and Moira Demos are named as defendants, along with Netflix executives Lisa Nishimura and Adam Del Deo and editor Mary Manhardt.
In a statement Colborn’s lawyer, Michael Griesbach, said of his client, “His reputation and that of Manitowoc County, itself, has been severely and unjustly defamed. He is filing this lawsuit to set the record straight and to restore his good name.”
Colborn played a crucial role in Season One of Making a Murderer, which examined whether or not Avery and his nephew, Dassey, had been framed for the murder of 25-year-old photographer Teresa Halbach. Most notably, in Episode Five, the show highlighted Colborn’s testimony regarding a phone call he made to his dispatcher prior to the discovery of Halbach’s car on Avery’s property.
In the recording, Colborn asks dispatch to run a license plate number, and after getting a hit for Halbach, who was listed as a missing person at that point, Colborn immediately replies, “Ninety-Nine Toyota?” During Avery’s trial, Avery’s lawyer, Dean Strang, quizzed Colborn on the call and suggested that his response made it seem that he was looking at Halbach’s car at that moment (the car wouldn’t be discovered for another two days).
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The lawsuit, however, disputes the way Colborn’s testimony is portrayed in Making a Murderer. Citing court transcripts, it alleges that Strang’s suggestion that Colborn was looking at the car was objected to and sustained by the judge. It also claims that Colborn’s “Yes” response to Strang’s suggestion – as seen in Making a Murderer – was actually taken from Colborn’s response to a subsequent question about running routine license plate checks.
“Their manipulation of this crucial line of testimony falsely conveyed to viewers that plaintiff located Halbach’s SUV somewhere other than at the salvage yard days earlier and likely assisted other law enforcement officers plant it there at a later time,” the suit reads. “The impression is false and gave to viewers the exact opposite impression of what plaintiff was asked and how he responded at trial.”