It took just a couple of hours for tickets to sell out to an event at Sisyphus Brewing in Minneapolis that centers on the binge-tastic Netflix true-crime docuseries "Making a Murderer." Brewery owner Catherine Cuddy was flabbergasted at the speed, especially because she had put tickets on sale at the wee hour of 3 a.m.
But the middle of the night is prime time for the documentary's obsessed fans, who stay up all hours to consume the tragic tale of a Wisconsin man, wrongfully convicted of one crime, possibly framed for another. Bloodshot eyes are not uncommon at morning water-cooler conversations, as viewers skip sleep to seek out one more nugget of evidence as to whether Steven Avery is innocent or guilty.
"I am 52 years old and pulled my first real all-nighter since my days studying for finals at the Wilson Library at the U of M," said Stephen Gyurci of Minnetonka. He watched the 10-hour series entirely on his iPhone screen.
On Jan. 27, the brewery will host one of Avery's defense attorneys, Dean Strang of Madison, Wis., to discuss the "broader implications" of the show. He'll be joined by Twin Cities lawyers Joe Friedberg and Ron Rosenbaum.
Sisyphus regular Paul Nolan of Plymouth invited Strang, not expecting a response. He was moved by the way Strang had spoken on the series about the "lack of humility" in the criminal justice system.
"That's so powerful," Nolan said. "The empathy from this guy just oozes out of him. "
The new event space at the Lowry Hill brewery was intended for comedy shows, but a criminal justice forum has proved to be a hot ticket.
Strang, who has been at the center of several memes about his sex appeal and cable-knit sweaters, agreed to make the appearance for just the cost of travel.
"It's not necessarily going to be about the Netflix show," Cuddy said. "It's expanding that conversation to the bigger picture and what this kind of thing means for the criminal justice part of our country, how it might be failing us or what needs to change."
Proceeds from the event go to the Wisconsin Innocence Project, which helped clear Avery of a rape conviction in 2003, after he'd served 18 years in prison. Two years later, in the midst of a lawsuit against Manitowoc County for his wrongful incarceration, Avery was convicted of the murder of photographer Teresa Halbach. Theories abound that Avery and his nephew Brendan Dassey were framed for the murder by police. Both are serving life sentences.
The show has spurred some fans to action. A "We the People" petition for a presidential pardon garnered almost 130,000 signatures and evoked an official response from the White House. Because Avery was tried in state, and not federal, court, the Obama administration has no power to pardon him. It was announced Friday that Avery has gained a new legal team.
The twists and turns in the series have hooked audiences.
"It is the most fascinating people story I have ever been a part of," said viewer Rachel Grahek of Maple Grove. "You experience every emotion one can feel each and every episode. He's guilty; no, he's innocent! How can the police do that; did the police do that?!"
Sharyn Jackson • 612-673-4853