More than 2,400 people have signed a petition imploring Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker to pardon Steven Avery, the man convicted in 2007 of murdering 25-year-old Teresa Halbach — and the subject of the highly publicized Netflix documentary, “Making a Murderer.”
Despite these public pleas for exoneration, Walker press secretary Laurel Patrick told TheBlaze on Tuesday that the governor has no plans to take official action.
“These events took place before Governor Walker took office. Governor Walker has not watched this documentary,” Patrick said in an email. “As you may know, early in his administration, Governor Walker made the decision not to issue pardons.”
It has been widely documented that Walker has resisted issuing any and all pardons while in office, with his position on the Avery matter remaining consistent with responses to past requests for exoneration.
Patrick suggested that people looking to overturn purported wrongful convictions turn to the court system to do so — something that Avery has attempted.
“Those who feel they have been wrongly convicted can seek to have their convictions overturned by a higher court,” she told TheBlaze.
This comes as numerous petitions urge politicians to take action to remedy Avery’s life without parole conviction — calls that have emerged in the days following the Dec. 18 release of “Making a Murderer,” a 10-part documentary series about Avery’s conviction.
“I am outraged with the injustices which have been allowed to compound and left unchecked in the case of Steven Avery of Manitowoc County in Wisconsin, U.S.A.,” reads a Change.org petition created by a U.K. man named Gary Dolan. “Avery’s unconstitutional mistreatment at the hands of corrupt local law enforcement is completely unacceptable and is an abomination of due process.”
Dolan, who is joined by more than 2,400 signatories, is calling for Walker’s office to issue a pardon, as well as for Manitowoc County cops — who some critics believe framed Avery — to be “held accountable to the highest extent of the U.S. criminal and civil justice systems.”
This petition comes as more than 72,000 signatures are on a White House petition and more than 271,000 names are on a separate Change.org call-to-action, with both petitions urging President Barack Obama to take action — something that is not legally or constitutionally permissible, considering that Avery was convicted of state — not federal — crimes.
“The President cannot pardon a state criminal offense,” reads a directive on the Department of Justice website. “Accordingly, if you are seeking clemency for a state criminal conviction, you should not complete and submit this petition. Instead, you should contact the Governor or other appropriate authorities of the state where you reside or where the conviction occurred (such as the state board of pardons and paroles) to determine whether any relief is available to you under state law.”
Without spoiling too many of the details, let’s briefly recap the key events at the heart of the documentary: Avery was originally convicted of sexual assault in 1985, serving 18 years until he was exonerated in 2003 based on DNA evidence.
Two years after his exoneration and release, Avery sued the Manitowoc County police department for $36 million over his false imprisonment. But in 2005, just weeks after depositions of local cops who were associated with the case and subsequent lawsuit took place, Avery was, again, arrested — but this time on an entirely different charge: murder.
In a shocking twist of events, Avery went from a well-known exoneree in a sexual assault case to an accused killer, as prosecutors claimed that he murdered Halbach, a photographer who had come to his house on Oct. 31, 2005, to photograph a van for Auto Trader magazine.
Without going any deeper into the final details, Avery and his nephew — then-16-year-old Brendan Dassey — were eventually convicted of the crime in 2007; both men are currently serving life sentences, with the former having no chance of parole, as the New York Times reported.
“Making a Murderer” takes viewers through the complicated case, as they learn of Avery’s repeated denials of involvement and his accusation that police in Manitowoc County framed him — a defense that clearly didn’t compel the jury.
That said, some critics believe that there are still many unanswered questions surrounding the case, as Avery still maintains his innocence.
But law enforcement officials have pushed back against these claims, with Manitowoc County Sheriff Robert Hermann telling USA Today that he wouldn’t exactly call “Making a Murderer” a documentary, per se.
“A documentary puts things in chronological order and tells the story as it is. … I’ve heard things are skewed,” Hermann said, adding that he hasn’t yet watched the series. “They’ve taken things out of context and taken them out of the order in which they occurred, which can lead people to a different opinion or conclusion.”
He continued, ”Show me the evidence he was framed. There is not going to be any. It didn’t happen.”
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