Steven Avery, the convicted killer behind the popular Netflix series ‘Making a Murderer’ filed an appeal with the Wisconsin Court of Appeals on Wednesday, challenging his 2007 murder conviction. He filed two motions alleging violations of due process rights in his trial for the 2005 rape and murder of Teresa Halbach. Avery is currently serving a life sentence for her murder. The appeal, filed Monday in an appeals court in Madison, bears Avery’s signature and contains numerous spelling and grammar errors. His new attorney’s name doesn’t appear on it.
The Netflix series sparked renewed interest in Avery’s ongoing case and has led to calls for his release and petition seeking a presidential pardon. President Obama declined because only a Governor can pardon someone convicted of a state criminal offense. Wisconsin prosecutors and law enforcement have accused the show’s directors of cherry-picking the evidence to cast it in a light favorable towards Steven Avery.
Avery was convicted in 1985 in the rape of jogger Penny Beerntsen on a beach near her home in Manitowoc, Wisconsin. After serving 18 years in prison he was exonerated based on DNA evidence connecting the attack to another man. Avery was later released in 2003 and filed lawsuits against Manitowoc County for wrongful conviction and imprisonment. Two years later, he was arrested in the death of Halbach, whose charred remains were found on his family’s auto salvage yard.
Avery now claims that the jury was tainted, because one juror made repeated comments that he was guilty. Avery says the juror in question also told the other jurors, “If you can’t handle it why don’t you tell them [the judge] and just leave.” Avery also claims in new legal documents, the search that recovered incriminating evidence including blood and the key to the victim’s vehicle was illegal. Last week, Avery secured a new defense team: Chicago lawyer Kathleen Zellner announced Friday that her firm would assume Avery’s representation, along with Tricia Bushnell, the legal director of the Midwest Innocence Project.
The motion seeks a stay of enforcement of the judgment and release on bond. If the court decides to vacate Avery’s conviction based on his claims, prosecutors would have to decide whether to retry him without the impermissible evidence. Former Calumet County District Attorney Ken Kratz shared his thoughts with WBAY.
I’m disappointed that Mr. Avery’s appellate lawyers are allowing him to continue to file pleadings with the court on his own – that’s what lawyers are hired to do and this appears to be an example of Mr. Avery doing exactly what he wants to and when he wants to do it.”
Avery filed his appeal just days after the two filmmakers behind the Netflix series, Moira Demos and Laura Ricciardi announced on the Today Show that a juror contacted them to discuss secret vote-trading and votes made under duress.
[The juror] told us that they believe Steven Avery was not proven guilty,” Ricciardi said. “They believe Steven was framed by law enforcement and that he deserves a new trial, and if he receives a new trial, in their opinion it should take place far away from Wisconsin.”
Avery filed multiple appeals over the years, but the documentary catapulted his plight into the national spotlight. It’s unclear why Avery filed his latest appeal, apparently without the help of his new attorney.