The newly released Making a Murderer series on Netflix has taken America by storm in the last several weeks. If you haven’t tuned in to the hype surrounding the binge-worthy docuseries, here is a brief description of what it is about.
Steven Avery was sent to prison for the 1985 rape of Penny Beerntsen, but maintained his innocence. He was exonerated eighteen years later with the help of the Wisconsin Innocence Project. A few years later, he was convicted and sentenced to life in prison, along with his nephew, Brendan Dassey, for the 2005 murder of Teresa Halbach. Avery once again maintains his innocence, but remains in prison along with Dassey.
The documentary has left many people with questions along with opinions on whether they believe he and his nephew are innocent or not. A lot has happened surrounding the cases since the series aired.
Many people were outraged by the many injustices Avery suffered throughout the criminal proceedings for both the rape and murder charges. Some people were so outraged that they created petitions in an attempt to get Avery released. One petition is on the White House website, which asks President Obama to grant both Avery and Dassey pardons. The petition was posted on December 20, 2015 with the goal of reaching 100,000 signatures by January 19 of this year. The goal was met on January 5, but thousands of supporters continue to sign the petition to this day.
Another petition was posted on change.org, which calls for both President Obama and Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin to grant Avery and Dassey pardon. This petition set a goal of 500,000 signatures and is less than 200,000 signatures away from reaching that goal.
Unfortunately, President Obama does not actually have the power to grant the men clemency because he can only do so for federal cases. Both Avery and Dassey’s cases were handled in state court; therefore Governor Walker does have the authority to pardon them. However, this should not excite Avery and Dassey supporters.
When he first took office, Governor Walker stated that he would not be issuing pardons. Recently informed of the petition addressed to him in regards to pardoning Avery and Dassey, the governor held his ground. He has stated once again that he will not be issuing pardons for anyone, including Avery and Dassey.
However, some hope remains, especially for Brendan Dassey and his supporters. The Northwestern University Center on Wrongful Convictions of Youth have accepted Dassey’s case and brought it to Wisconsin federal court. The Center hopes that he will be issued a writ of habeas corpus. His lawyers from the Center have based the habeas petition around the questionable actions of Dassey’s original public defender and the claim that Dassey’s confession was coerced. If the writ is granted, this means that the state would have a certain period of time to either retry Dassey or set him free.
An interesting piece of information has also come about. One of the jurors who voted to convicted Steven Avery for the murder of Teresa Halbach has come forward. The juror admitted that he or she do not think Avery was proven guilty during his trial, and that he was only convicted because the jurors feared for their lives. The juror goes on to explain that together, the jurors discussed and comprised on which charges they would vote guilty or not guilty. They did so in the hopes of showing the court that by reaching a split verdict, Avery should be granted a new trial. If that was the case, unfortunately things did not work out in their favor. However, other jurors have not yet verified the validity of these statements.
Another interesting event surrounding the series relates to the victim in Avery’s original conviction, Penny Beerntsen. Although she refused to participate in the documentary by speaking with filmmakers, she has since come out to discuss how she feels about everything that has happened. Beerntsen states that for her, learning about Avery’s exoneration was worse than the day she was assaulted. She was sure Avery was her attacker and continued to believe so, regardless of Avery’s cries of innocence and other details that came about suggesting that he could actually be telling the truth. Even when the Wisconsin Innocence Project took on Avery’s case, she was angry.
Now, Beerntsen laments sending an innocent man to prison, saying that she “absolutely wanted the earth to swallow [her] whole.” The day she met Avery, she apologized, things were cordial, and they ended it with a hug. Avery’s parents also allowed Beerntsen to apologize to them. A few months later, Avery called Beerntsen in an attempt to solicit money from her, but she refused. She has since experienced many different emotions regarding everything surrounding the case. And now, in regards to her feelings about Avery following the murder of Teresa Halbach, Beerntsen says that her emotions about Avery are very complicated.
New information surrounding the extremely popular Making A Murderer series seems to come about daily. Followers of the cases can continue to sit on the edge of their seats, certain that a new development regarding Avery, Dassey, or anyone else involved will surely come about at any time.