'Murder Mountain' director responds to criticism by Humboldt County Sheriff's Office

Joshua Zeman, the director of the Netflix docuseries "Murder Mountain" responded Monday to a statement released by the Humboldt County Sheriff's Office that criticized the project.

When asked what his initial response to the sheriff's office's 1,500-word Facebook post was, Zeman said:

"I think they’re pretty justified in making sure the community at large understands their role. I think it’s important that people really do understand what is prosecutable versus not prosecutable and what you can bring to a DA’s office in terms of trying a certain case."

Zeman spoke highly of the HCSO and praised Sheriff William Honsal in particular, citing the sheriff's dedication to the county.

"I think Sheriff Honsal is probably the best chance that Humboldt has to end the violence and bring Humboldt County into the light from the dark," Zeman said. "I think they’re doing an excellent job of that."

The director said the goal was never to cast a negative light on the county, but rather to bring important issues to the surface.

"I know everybody has mixed feelings about it, but sometimes it's good to bring these issues to light so we can try and have a larger debate about solving them," Zeman said.

He said he hopes the documentary will lead to productive conversations.

"There’s been a lot of people who felt we portrayed Humboldt County in a negative light. Our goal is not to do that, but to bring up some issues so everyone can finally move into a positive discussion about how to fix the problems at hand...That was our intention, was to bring these issues to light."

Zeman responded to the HCSO's claim the filmmakers were not up front with them about the focus of the series being the Garret Rodriguez case:

"I think we were [transparent] but to their point, documentaries do evolve," Zeman said. "We were up there for nine months. There were a bunch of different story lines we were looking at including the legalization story line, and the Garret Rodriguez story. So in nine months of shooting and research, certain stories come to the top."

The filmmakers didn't know the Rodriguez case would be the focal point of the documentary until much later on in the process, according to Zeman.

"We started one way and the focus did change once we found a story line that was really engaging and exemplary of some of the problems," he said.

In response to the sheriff's office's criticism that the show was "highly-sensationalized," Zeman said:

"I wish we could have done eight episodes. I wish we could have delved more into the OGs that created at first an unbelievable paradise. I would have loved nothing more than to continue to keep taking about those stories. At the same time, this was a true crime show. It’s very hard to tell a story from everybody’s different sides."

Ultimately, the director reiterated his sentiments about the Rodriguez case.

"The only person who needs to apologize or be concerned is the person who murdered Garret Rodriguez," Zeman said. "That’s really what this is about."

Listen to the full interview:

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