Fans of The Staircase, the true crime documentary series now streaming on Netflix, probably already know about Making a Murderer — if they haven’t already watched the other true crime series on the same streaming service. But these two hit crime documentaries aren’t just connected by sharing the same genre page in your Netflix cue.
If you’re unfamiliar with one of the two series, let us refresh you. Making a Murderer, which was released on Netflix back in 2015, follows Steven Avery and his path through the legal system. After serving 18 years in prison for the wrongful conviction of sexual assault and attempted murder of Penny Beerntsen, Steven is exonerated in 2003. He then files a lawsuit against the county, but is soon entangled in a murder case and was arrested on charges of murdering Teresa Halbach, a local photographer, in 2005. He was convicted in 2007.
The documentaries series, like The Staircase, illuminated some doubt about the guilt of its subject. It’s unclear whether the county pursues Avery in retribution for his lawsuit. The arrest, prosecution and conviction of Avery’s nephew Brendan Dassey is also covered and the subject of much scrutiny. Dassey’s conviction was overturned in 2016 when a judge decided that the confession that lead to his guilty charge was coerced in a questionable interrogation.
So what does Making a Murderer have to do with The Staircase?
But what possible connection could there be between a 2005 murder case in Manitowoc County, Wisconsin and a 2003 murder case in Durham, North Carolina? A key figure from The Staircase has a surprising connection to Making a Murderer: none other than Michael Peterson’s lawyer David Rudolf. (You can catch up on what role he played in the Kathleen Peterson case and where the lawyer is now to our guide on David Rudolf and The Staircase.)
As it turns out, David Rudolf also taught Steven Avery’s defense lawyer, Jerry Buting. (Note: Jerry Buting is not to be confused with Brendan Dassey’s attorney, Len Kachinsky, who was recently arrested for stalking.) “I started a clinical program back at the University of North Carolina in ’78, and Jerry was in, I can’t remember, like the second or third clinic that I ran,” Rudolf explained to the Huffington Post. Though the lawyer didn’t seem to think it was that big of a coincidence, adding, “enough of the people who went through that clinic ended up being defense lawyers, which is a nice thing to see for me.”
David Rudolf and Jerry Buting have been in touch since the release of The Staircase, Rudolf told the publication, but haven’t caught up “at any length.” Still, the connection “hasn’t escaped our notices,” he added. And now it hasn’t escaped yours, either.