MADISON, Wis. -- The attorney for a Wisconsin inmate featured in the hit Netflix documentary series “Making a Murderer” has filed a motion seeking permission to perform extensive scientific tests on evidence she believes will show he’s innocent.
Steven Avery is serving a life sentence after a jury convicted him in 2007 of killing 25-year-old Teresa Halbach in his family’s Manitowoc County salvage yard in 2005. Avery insists the authorities framed him.
The case wasthat generated new scrutiny of the conviction nationally and prompted armchair sleuths to flood social media.
His attorney, Kathleen Zellner, filed the motion for testing Friday. She told reporters outside the courthouse that she wants to date blood and DNA found at the scene to see if it was planted.
She says no one who is guilty would ever agree to such testing. She said the results will show Avery isn’t guilty and someone else killed Halbach.
“The most reassuring thing is that we are going to get to the bottom of who killed Teresa Halbach,” Zellner said. “And we firmly believe that we will establish it was not Steven Avery.”
Also convicted in Halbach’s murder was Avery’s nephew, Brendan Dassey. Dassey was 16 when Halbach was killed after she went to the Avery family auto salvage yard to photograph some vehicles. A separate jury convicted Dassey in 2007 of being party to first-degree intentional homicide, mutilating a corpse and sexual assault, and he was sentenced to life in prison. Dassey confessed to helping Avery carry out the rape and murder of Halbach, but attorneys argued that the confession was coerced and that his constitutional rights were violated throughout the investigation.
Aug. 12, a federal judge agreed,because of his young age, his intellectual deficits, the absence of a supportive adult during his interrogation and detectives’ “deceptive interrogation tactics that overbore Dassey’s free will.” The ruling vacated Dassey’s conviction.
The state Justice Department has 90 days to appeal the ruling or decide whether to retry him. If the agency chooses to do nothing, he will go free.
The case fascinated the public. Avery rose to fame in 2003 when he was released from prison after spending 18 years behind bars for rape; a DNA test showed he didn’t assault the woman. The case raised questions about eyewitness reliability and illustrated the power of DNA testing.
Avery contended the police framed him for Halbach’s death because the rape exoneration embarrassed them and he had a $36 million wrongful conviction lawsuit pending against Manitowoc County. That lawsuit collapsed when he was arrested in Halbach’s death.
Avery has alleged that investigators planted blood taken from him during the rape case and planted Halbach’s DNA at the scene.
He argued in an appeal that he should have been allowed to blame others for Halbach’s death, that police illegally searched his trailer and that a judge improperly replaced a juror during deliberations. A state appeals court rejected those arguments in 2011.
The “Making a Murderer” documentary raised questions about investigators’ integrity in the Halbach case. Prosecutors insisted the show was one-sided but it still created a national groundswell of support for Avery and Dassey.
Zellner said after Dassey’s conviction was tossed this month she was confident Avery’s conviction would be overturned as well, “when an unbiased court reviews all of the new evidence we have.”
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