The major hit Making a Murderer docuseries on Netflix has enjoyed enormous success — a chronicle of one man’s experience with being wrongfully convicted of raping a jogger in Manitowoc County, Wisconsin, in 1985. He was tried and convicted, serving 18 years for a crime he steadfastly denied committing. Then, in 2003, he was exonerated when newfound DNA technology showed that he was not the rapist at all — a man already in jail had committed the crime. He was released and became a poster child for wrongful convictions in Wisconsin.
Although a free man, his time in prison had lost more than 18 years of freedom; his wife had divorced him and he became essentially estranged from his five children. He went back to live on the property of Avery Auto Savage, his family’s business, in a small, aging red trailer home. Stripped of assets and having no skills, he filed a lawsuit against Manitowoc county for $36 million dollars.
Things were looking up for Avery, who now had a fiancée, although she was in jail for seven months on a DUI conviction. He was about to become a millionaire. Then, the unthinkable happened. Just two years after his release from prison, Avery was arrested in connection with the Oct. 2005 death of 25-year-old freelance photographer Teresa Halbach. Halbach was in Manitowoc taking photos for AutoTrader Magazine and was scheduled to visit the Avery family’s auto salvage business on the day she disappeared, October 31, in order to take photos of a van. Police say that Steven Avery was the last to see her alive, and he was soon arrested in connection with her disappearance and death. Things were far from clear cut, however. Halbach’s car was found on the auto salvage property by her own family members, and Avery was arrested shortly after. Fragments of Halbach’s charred remains were found on the Avery family property in three separate burn areas. Avery was convicted and is currently serving a life sentence for the murder along with his then-16-year-old nephew, Brendan Dassey, now 26, who was convicted as an accessory to the crime.
The docuseries focuses on the strong possibility, in the opinion of the defense, that the evidence against Avery was planted by police of Manitowoc that were disgruntled over the fact that they were being sued for $36 million dollars for his wrongful rape conviction. They even exposed tampering of Avery’s blood vial in a DNA kit from his prior conviction. The evidence tape on the box had been slit open, and it was apparent a hole was in the top of the vial — what appeared to be a syringe hole. The defense argued that the police had taken his blood from the evidence kit and placed it in Halbach’s vehicle.
Avery’s new attorney, Kathleen Zellner, talked to Dateline NBC‘s Andrea Canning in her first TV interview since taking the Avery case. The Dateline series airs tonight, according to NBC News.
“Generally, since 2007, there have been significant advances in forensic testing… the clearest way to do this is with scientific testing. Am I going to tell you exactly what it is? I am not. But it’s been a long time. There was a lot of evidence that wasn’t tested.”
This certainly makes it sound like more compelling tests and evidence have been discovered that may help Avery’s case, but Zellner is not likely to discuss particulars in the event the case is re-examined.
Avery’s lawyer from 2007 when he was convicted, Jerry Buting, says he still believes that Avery was wrongfully convicted and that evidence was tampered with in the case in order to frame Steven Avery.
“From the evidence I’ve looked at I think he is innocent. I think he certainly was not guilty beyond a reasonable doubt under the evidence that was presented.”
[image via Netflix]