The noted post-conviction lawyer for Making a Murderer subject Steven Avery says she has uncovered even more exculpatory evidence in her bid to free him from prison.
Avery is serving life without parole in a Wisconsin prison for the 2005 murder of Teresa Halbach.
Zellner told the Inquisitr that new witnesses have come forward, leading to”significant discoveries” since she filed a 1,200-page petition for post-conviction relief on June 7. She did not name the individuals but said they were hesitant to tell the truth during the initial investigation. Details about new direct evidence have also not been released, but will be included in an amended motion.
And while considerable attention was cast on Zellner’s accusations of misconduct by the state under Brady v. Maryland, the lawyer is now swinging for the fences. She’s not just after a new trial based on isolated violations. She plans to prove Avery’s innocence.
“We are as fully invested in vacating Steven Avery’s conviction as we have ever been,” Zellner said.
“However, the big difference now is the new witnesses who are stepping out of the shadows and telling us what they know.”
There will be more forensic testing, too, she said, findings that will supplement the results and expert testimony she included in the June brief.
“We have informed the Wisconsin Attorney General of our intent to amend the petition with this new information,” Zellner said.
“It is our strong belief that our experts have demonstrated so many critical flaws in the forensic evidence used to convict Steven Avery a decade ago.”
Zellner has received considerable blowback, mostly on social media since announcing her intention to free Avery. She announced new forensic testing last year, but it took nearly a year to prepare and file the motion, leading some to believe the case was at a standstill. Then there is the $10,000 challenge she issued to anyone who can prove Avery is guilty. The challenge is real, she says, despite accusations that she threw out the gauntlet as a publicity stunt. Although Redditors attempted to pick the challenge apart, nobody has officially attempted to cash in by following Zellner’s guidelines.
Those with the qualifications to challenge her findings have also been silent.
“Other than ad hominem attacks that show a sense of desperation, there has not been a single identifiable, credible expert who has stepped forward to rebut any of our forensic claims.”
And the claims are bold ones. Her June petition appears to come from the Gerry Spence school. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. The 88-year-old Spence has never lost a criminal case as a prosecutor or defense attorney. In his fashion, Zellner’s brief has become as high-profile as the Avery case itself. In it, she points to Ryan Hillegas, Halbach’s on-again, off-again boyfriend as the likely killer. She dramatically links him to bumbling Manitowoc County Sheriff’s deputies who she ways were duped so badly they planted evidence to cover their tracks. Zellner says there were more viable suspects than Steven Avery, but the state withheld key evidence that pointed towards them.
Hillegas was never considered a suspect. He and Scott Bloedorn, Halbach’s roommate with whom she had a sexual relationship, were questioned, but not asked for alibis. Zellner claims Halbach was not killed anywhere near Avery’s Auto Salvage, but clubbed to death–not shot– likely at her home in Hilbert, Wisconsin, about 30 miles away. Zellner says her latest findings back that up, while those who believe in Avery’s innocence have pointed to a number other findings, including Halbach’s cellphone records and surrounding tower data from October 31, 2005.
Avery maintains that Halbach left his property around 2:30 p.m. that day. He watched her drive away, he says. The state had a different version of events though, and the jury bought it. Ex-Calumet County District Attorney Ken Kratz said some of Avery’s story checked out, but that he was lying about where Halbach went after she took pictures of the van he had for sale. Kratz claims she did not leave the property, but that Avery lured her into his trailer, where she was raped and stabbed before being shot dead in his garage. Halbach’s cremains were found in at least two locations on the Avery property. The state says Avery and nephew Brendan Dassey burned the body in a Halloween bonfire. Zellner challenges that claim.
“We strongly believe this [new] information combined with the flawed forensic evidence used to convict Steven Avery will free him, once again,” Zellner said.
Brendan Dassey is eligible for early release 2048. Dassey’s conviction was thrown out last year, but the ruling has since been vacated pending the outcome of an en banc hearing in the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals scheduled for September 26.
[Featured Image by The Post-Crescent/Dan Powers/Pool/AP Images]