Tag Archives: pardon

Making a phenomenon: Netflix series shines spotlight on Steve Avery murder case

“Did he just reference the O.J. Simpson case?” the armchair juror asked, looking sideways at her co-juror, sunk deep into the couch after hours of binge-watching Making a Murderer, the Netflix series about Wisconsin’s prosecution of Steven Avery for a rape he did not commit and the murder of a woman for which he is serving a life sentence.

The 10-part series, a runaway hit that debuted on the streaming service in mid-December, has Netflix subscribers taking on the roles of juror and judge, prosecutor and defense attorney, cop and criminologist in the State of Wisconsin’s cases against Avery for the rape of a Manitowoc woman in 1985 and the murder of a Calumet County woman in 2005. Avery’s nephew, Brendan Dassey, also was convicted and sentenced to life in prison for the 2005 murder of 25-year-old freelance photographer Teresa Halbach at the Avery’s 40-acre property and salvage yard near Mishicot.

The reference to the Simpson case is apt because, like the televised proceedings in that trial, Making a Murderer leads the audience into deep, disturbing debates about guilt and innocence while questioning the integrity of the criminal justice system. Since the series launched, more than 250,000 people have signed petitions urging the president to pardon Avery and Dassey, which is not even an option in state cases.

The story may be new to Netflix’s audience, but Steven Avery’s trials and tribulations are familiar to Wisconsinites. He’s been known in the state as a small-time thief, a defendant, a convicted rapist, a prison inmate, an exoneree, a freed man, an advocate for the innocence project and, finally, as a convicted killer — as “evil incarnate.”

But now, once again, Avery is becoming known as the possible victim of a corrupt legal system, as a repeat non-offender. On Jan. 11, he filed a new appeal. He claims that prosecutors went after him to retaliate for the $36 million lawsuit he filed against Manitowoc officials.

The case recently settled for $400,000.

Avery, despite having alibi witnesses, was convicted of raping a woman jogging along Lake Michigan in Manitowoc in 1985. He served 18 years, exhausting many appeals, before his release from prison on Sept. 11, 2003, after the Wisconsin Innocence Project proved, using DNA testing, that another man committed the crime.

Avery’s wrongful conviction led Wisconsin lawmakers to champion new legislation meant to help the exonerated.

Still, Wisconsin Attorney General Peg Lautenschlager, in an investigation of how Avery ended up in prison, did not find cause to bring criminal charges or ethics violations against the Manitowoc County Sheriff’s Department, which arrested Avery and ignored information that should have led to the arrest of the actual rapist, or against the Manitowoc District Attorney’s Office. In October 2004, Avery filed a federal suit for his wrongful conviction, seeking $36 million in compensation.

A year later, and shortly after several key players in the 1985 case were deposed in the lawsuit, Avery was arrested for the murder of Halbach. In her professional capacity, she had visited the Avery property on Halloween. Her burned remains were found behind Avery’s trailer. Her SUV was found in the Avery salvage yard. And the key to that vehicle eventually was found in Avery’s bedroom.

Months later, investigators obtained a confession from Dassey, 16 at the time, who said he participated in the rape and murder.

It was DNA evidence, which led to Avery’s exoneration in the 1985 crime, that sent Avery back to prison in the 2005 homicide.

Making a Murderer makes a compelling case that Avery was framed by at least two officers at the Manitowoc County Sheriff’s Department, who allegedly planted Avery’s blood and other evidence. The series also contends that Dassey was coerced and tricked into making the confessions he later recanted.

The filmmakers, Laura Ricciardi and Moira Demos, say the 10-part series took nearly 10 years to complete and is solid.

Wisconsin authorities say the series is slanted. They warn that viewers are seeing just 10 hours of film about a story that spans 30 years. They point out that testimony in Avery’s murder trial lasted 19 days, with more than 50 witnesses taking the stand.

Manitowoc County Sheriff Robert Hermann, who said justice was served in the Avery murder case, called Making a Murderer “a film. It’s missing a lot of important pieces of evidence.”

But for many viewers, the evidence trail isn’t ending with the conclusion of the series. Old news stories and clips are recirculating on the Internet as fans-turned-investigators are creating reddit and wiki pages.

In the first week of January, the Manitowoc County Clerk of Courts office announced a flood of requests for transcripts, exhibits and other records that fill six banker boxes. One Australian woman requested copies of the entire Avery trial transcript, which cost her $6,000.

‘MAKING A MURDERER,’ MAKING A HIT …

WHAT DOES THE SERIES CLAIM?

The documentary strongly suggests the possibility that Manitowoc County sheriff’s deputies planted evidence against Steven Avery, including a key found in his bedroom and blood found in the vehicle of homicide victim Teresa Halbach.

 

WHAT ABOUT THE VICTIMS?

Teresa Halbach’s brother Mike declined comment since releasing a statement from the family before the documentary became public. “Having just passed the 10-year anniversary of the death of our daughter and sister, Teresa, we are saddened to learn that individuals and corporations continue to create entertainment and to seek profit from our loss,” the statement read. “We continue to hope that the story of Teresa’s life brings goodness to the world.” Other relatives have claimed the series is one-sided.

 

WHAT HAS THE REACTION BEEN LIKE?

It’s been all over the map. Celebrities have tweeted about how into the series they are, late night talk show host Seth Meyers spoofed it and fake Twitter accounts have been set up for some of the main players in the case. However, Manitowoc County sheriff’s officers have received threats in emails and voicemails.

Dan Auerbach, lead singer of the rock bands The Black Keys and The Arcs, posted a song on The Arcs’ website inspired by the documentary series. Proceeds from the sale of the song will go to the Innocence Project, a legal organization that uses DNA evidence to exonerate prisoners. The song, called “Lake Superior,” includes several lyrics that reference the case, such as: “Your alibi will never do when the whole town’s got it out for you.”

 

WHAT ABOUT AVERY?

Steven Avery filed an appeal to overturn his conviction on Jan. 11. His attorney is confident that the appeal will succeed based on new evidence.

 

 

— from AP and WiG reports

 

Netflix’s hit documentary ‘Making a Murderer’ raises questions about — and wrath toward — Wisconsin prosecutors

The 10-part Netflix documentary series Making a Murderer, which casts doubt on the legal process in the case of convicted killers Steven Avery and his then-teenage nephew Brendan Dassey, has prompted celebrities to armchair sleuths to flood online message boards and Twitter feeds.

Authorities involved with the Wisconsin case are saying the series is slanted and omits crucial facts that led to Avery and Dassey being found guilty in the death of photographer Teresa Halbach.

The filmmakers, meanwhile, are standing by their work that spans nearly a decade and largely concentrates on the defense and perspective of Avery and Dassey’s relatives.

The rush of attention has left many wondering: How did we get here? And what’s next?

Q: SO WHAT’S THE BIG DEAL?

A: Avery made national headlines in 2003 when he was released after spending nearly two decades behind bars after being wrongfully convicted of rape. Two years later, Avery and Dassey were charged with killing Halbach, who visited the Avery family salvage yard to take photos of a minivan on Halloween. Her bones and belongings were found burned near Avery’s trailer. Both were convicted and sentenced to life terms, but only Dassey is eligible for parole — in 2048.

Q: WHY HAS THE DOCUMENTARY BEEN SO POPULAR?

A: Its release was impeccably timed. It was released before Christmas, while much of the nation was on holiday break and had time to delve into a 10-hour series. Also, it comes on the heels of the popular podcast Serial, which lays out a complex legal case and has generated intense social media participation.

Q: WHAT EXACTLY IS IN THE DOCUMENTARY?

A: The documentary strongly suggests the possibility that Manitowoc County sheriff’s deputies planted evidence against Avery, including a key found in his bedroom and blood found in the victim’s vehicle. But Sheriff Robert Hermann denied that Tuesday. “They did not plant evidence,” Hermann said. “I trust them 100 percent. Quite frankly, I think justice was served in this case.” He said he watched the series, and added: “I call it a film. It’s missing a lot of important pieces of evidence.”

Q: WHY DO AUTHORITES SAY IT’S BIASED?

A: The series spends much of its time detailing the perspective of Avery and Dassey family members. The case’s special prosecutor, Ken Kratz, refused to comment to The Associated Press, but he has told other media outlets that the documentary ignores the majority of the physical evidence. The omissions include the fact that Avery’s DNA was found on the hood latch on Halbach’s SUV, which was hidden on the salvage lot. Kratz has also said a bullet fired from Avery’s gun was found in his garage with Halbach’s DNA on it.

Q: WHAT DO THE FILMMAKERS SAY?

A: Laura Ricciardi and Moira Demos have stood by their work. They said in an email to the AP through Netflix representatives that critics who might say they intentionally omitted or underplayed key evidence to make the series more entertaining or tragic are wrong. “Those accusations are untrue and unfounded,” the statement said.

Q: THERE’S AN ONLINE PETITION SEEKING A PARDON — COULD IT WORK?

A: It seems unlikely for a lot of reasons. For one thing, the request posted on Change.org started by petitioning President Barack Obama, who has no such authority in this type of case, since it’s not a federal matter. The petition recently was rewritten to include Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and remove the word “presidential” from the text of the appeal. Walker spokeswoman Laurel Patrick said Tuesday in an email to the AP that the governor hasn’t watched the series and that “early in his administration, Gov. Walker made the decision not to issue pardons. Those who feel they have been wrongly convicted can seek to have their convictions overturned by a higher court.”

Q: WHAT ABOUT THE VICTIMS?

A: Halbach’s brother Mike Halbach has declined comment since releasing a statement from the family before the documentary became public. “Having just passed the 10-year anniversary of the death of our daughter and sister, Teresa, we are saddened to learn that individuals and corporations continue to create entertainment and to seek profit from our loss,” the statement read. “We continue to hope that the story of Teresa’s life brings goodness to the world.”

The victim from the 1985 rape case has declined comment.

Q: WHAT HAS THE REACTION BEEN LIKE?

A: It’s been all over the map. Celebrities have tweeted about how into the series they are, late night talk show host Seth Meyers spoofed it and fake Twitter accounts have been set up for some of the main players in the case. However, Sheriff Hermann said some of his officers have received threats in emails and voicemails. He said one was from a convicted felon who said an officer should “take his own life, or else he’d come up there and take it for him.” Hermann said Tuesday that threat was passed along to Florida authorities to investigate.

See also: Wisconsin-set ‘Making a Murderer,’ from Netflix, tops winter streaming recommendations

Seattle mayor pardons tofu turkeys

As Thanksgiving approaches, Tofurkys in Seattle can breathe easy, even if real turkeys can’t.

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray has pardoned a soybean-based roast, The Seattle Times reported this week.

Spokesman Jason Kelly says Murray posed with the tofu turkey at City Hall to draw attention to hunger in the community.

The Tofurky was donated to Rainier Valley Food Bank.

Kelly acknowledged that Seattle’s reputation in the rest of the country is “a little bit ‘granola'” and that Murray was poking fun at himself.

Communications director Jeff Reading said that the mayor has no plan to pardon any of Seattle’s urban turkeys “either the literal or figurative variety.”

The maker of Tofurky, Turtle Island Foods, is based in Hood River, Oregon, and produces several tofu or tempeh-based products.

On the Web…

http://murray.seattle.gov/mayor-murray-pardons-tofurky-and-challenges-city-council-to-food-drive/#sthash.rbQbn7Fi.dpbs 

UK pardons gay WWII code-breaker Alan Turing

Britain has posthumously pardoned Alan Turing for a gay sex conviction. Turing was the computing pioneer and code-breaker credited with helping to win the war against Nazi Germany.

Turing committed suicide more than 50 years ago, after his persecution and prosecution for homosexuality, which included forced chemical castration.

Iain Stewart, the British lawmaker who pressed for the pardon, told The Associated Press, “He helped preserve our liberty. We owed it to him in recognition of what he did for the country – and indeed the free world – that his name should be cleared.”

The AP said Turing’s contributions to science spanned from computer science to biology, but he’s perhaps best remembered as the architect of the effort to crack the Enigma code, the cipher used by Nazi Germany to secure its military communications. Turing’s work gave the Allies the edge across half the globe, helping them defeat the Italians in the Mediterranean, beat back the Germans in Africa and escape enemy submarines in the Atlantic.

“It could be argued and it has been argued that he shortened the war, and that possibly without him the Allies might not have won the war,” said David Leavitt, the author of a book on Turing’s life and work. “That’s highly speculative, but I don’t think his contribution can be underestimated. It was immense.”

Turing also pioneered the field of computer science, theorizing the existence of a “universal machine” that could be programmed to carry out different task years before the creation of the world’s fully functional electronic computer.

Those accomplishments didn’t save him from arrest and prosecution for the offense of “gross indecency” stemming from his relationship with another man in 1952. Turing was stripped of his security clearance, subjected to monitoring by British authorities, and forced to take estrogen to neutralize his sex drive – a process described by some as chemical castration.

Turing committed suicide in 1954. S. Barry Cooper, a University of Leeds mathematician who has written about Turing’s work, said future generations would struggle to understand the code breaker’s treatment.

“You take one of your greatest scientists, and you invade his body with hormones,” he said in a telephone interview. “It was a national failure.”

The pardon on Dec. 24 was officially granted by Queen Elizabeth II, although in practice such pardons are an executive decision taken by the government.

Leavitt said, “Everyone should be equal under the law,” he said. “It’s wrong to give famous privileged pardons.”

Hawking calls for pardon for gay code-breaker Alan Turing

Stephen Hawking and other eminent scientists are calling on the British government to pardon computer pioneer Alan Turing, who helped win World War II but was later prosecuted for homosexuality.

In a letter published on Dec. 14 in the Daily Telegraph newspaper, Hawking and 10 others urge Prime Minister David Cameron “formally to forgive the iconic British hero.”

Turing worked at Bletchley Park, the wartime code-breaking center, where he helped crack Nazi Germany’s secret codes by creating the “Turing bombe,” a forerunner of modern computers.

After the war, Turing was prosecuted for having sex with a man, stripped of his security clearance and forcibly treated with female hormones. He killed himself in 1954 at age 41 by eating an apple laced with cyanide.

Turing received a posthumous government apology in 2009.