‘Making a Murderer’ Did Not Defame Detective in Netflix Docu-Series, Judge Rules
A retired detective from Wisconsin who sued Netflix for defamation after their depiction of him in Making a Murderer has lost his case. On Friday, according to the Associated Press, a judge ruled that the filmmakers behind the Netflix hit did not defame Andrew Colborn in the 2015 docu-series.
U.S. District Judge Brett Ludwig said that the documentary edits kept the gist of Colborn’s testimony and that he “failed to show that the streaming service or the filmmakers acted with malice toward him,” per the AP. An attorney for Colborn and a rep for Netflix did not immediately respond to Rolling Stone‘s request for comment.
In his original filing, Colborn alleged that the 10-episode series falsely claimed that he had planted evidence to frame Steven Avery and Brendan Dassey for murder. The original suit claimed 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 successful, sacrificing and defining [Colborn’s] character and reputation in the process,” the lawsuit read.
Colborn played a big role in Season One of Making a Murderer, examining whether 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. 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).
However, the lawsuit disputed how Colborn’s testimony was portrayed in Making a Murderer. Citing court transcripts, it alleged that Strang’s suggestion that Colborn was looking at the car was objected to and sustained by the judge. It also claimed that Colborn’s “Yes” response to Strang’s suggestion – as seen in Making a Murderer – was actually taken from the detective’s response to a subsequent question about running routine license plate checks.
In a 2018 statement, Colborn’s lawyer at the time, 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.”