Steven Avery in prison

Steven Avery Update: Access To 4K Pages Of Prison Emails Granted, May Help To Overturn Conviction

As Steven Avery remains behind bars for the 2005 murder of Teresa Halbach, his defense attorneys are busy piecing together information that they hope can overturn his conviction, including upcoming access to over 4,000 “secret” emails that may help out his case tremendously.

The Mirror reports that so far, the Wisconsin Department of Corrections (DOC) emails involving Avery’s case have been under wraps, that is until wrongful conviction attorney Kathleen Zellner stepped in, and with help of investigative reporter Keegan Kyle, got approved to gain access to them. Campaigner Shaun Attwood indicated that with access to the emails, the case could take a new turn in Avery’s favor, especially since the Manitowoc sheriff’s office has ties with the prison system.

“With so many prison staff being related to key people in the Sheriff’s department, that were part of the Avery investigation, all kinds of inside information could be revealed in these emails. From internal communications released by the prison we already know that there are conflicts of interest so there could be explosive information in there that could blow the lid off this case. It’s an exciting development.”

Last week, Post-Crescent, a branch of the USA Today network, reported that the Wisconsin DOC is charging $220.60 for the release of the emails, in PDF documents, which date back to November, 2015. The state of Wisconsin allows government agencies to charge fees to help recoup the time spent compiling information for release. The costs were calculated by prison officials after the state asked the DOC to search through its emails using the following keywords: “Netflix,” “Making a Murderer,” “Avery” or “Dassey.”

Steven Avery's mugshot. (Photo by Calumet County Jail)
Steven Avery’s mugshot. (Photo by Calumet County Jail)

When asked why the DOC wouldn’t simply share the emails through digital files via a CD or flash drive, which would reduce the costs, the agency responded that there would also be copying fees for thousands of pages. According to a spokesperson for the Wisconsin DOC, Jeff Grothman,

“Once the information has been appropriately redacted, we would be happy to provide the information either in hard copy, for which there is a per-page fee, or in PDF form on a CD. Once we receive your location fee payment, we will complete our work to process your request.”

Along with requests for the emails, Post-Crescent requested additional items, all available under the Wisconsin state open records laws, including:

  • All prison incident reports that were filed from Jan. 1, 2007 through present that involved with Avery or his nephew Brendan Dassey, who’s also serving a life sentence for Halbach’s murder.
  • Records or official laws that outline the laws concerning inmates having access to news or documentaries (Avery was denied access to watch Making a Murderer).

DOC spokesperson Joy Staab recently responded to the request outlining the laws on watching news in prison. She stated that that maximum security inmates such as Avery only have access to PG-13 or G-rated movies. The official also stated that the prison system doesn’t offer any streaming services to inmates.

“Maximum security institutions do not have the ability to stream video. Inmates are authorized to view movies rated PG-13 or below and do not include adult themes, violence, strong language or nudity.”

Making a Murderer, the Netflix docu-series that examines how Avery and Dassey ended up convicted for Halbach’s murder, has become one of the most popular documentaries of the decade. Not only are numerous people worldwide questioning why Avery and Dassey were convicted, but the film takes on the significant issue of possible corruption within the U.S. legal system. Defense attorneys for Avery contend that Manitowoc County authorities planted evidence on Avery’s property to frame him.

If his case is overturned, it will mark the second wrongful conviction of Steven Avery. In 2003, after spending 18 years in prison for a 1985 rape case, he was released after DNA evidence exonerated him.

[Photo by Netflix]

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