His lawyer has spent her own money to prove he's innocent
Steven Avery, the subject of the hit Netflix docuseries Making a Murderer, is still serving a life sentence for the sexual assault and murder of photographer Teresa Halbach whose body was burned down to the bones. He has claimed he was innocent of the heinous act since the day the police showed up to investigate the crime, but he was found guilty regardless of his pleas.
The docuseries dug into Steven’s life, examining the injustice he encountered after he was imprisoned for a sexual assault that he was later exonerated of. Steven sat behind bars for 18 years for a crime he didn’t commit, and it seems he’s doing the same behind this second sentence.
Fans of the series have called for a re-examination of the case, even begging President Obama to help Steven. Finally, a famed lawyer who specializes in high-profile exonerations is on his side. She believes that Steven will walk free soon based on the evidence that she uncovered through her own investigation.
The Crime of the Century
Steven Avery was sentenced to life in prison in 2007 for murdering Teresa Halbach, even though he claimed he had nothing to do with her demise. His defense team was unable to convince the jury that the local police planted evidence to get Steven convicted. So, he couldn’t move forward with his major lawsuit against them for wrongfully convicting him of a crime he spent 18 years in prison for.
In 2011, after Steven was a few years into his life sentence, he saw someone on TV that he thought could help him get out. Steven wrote to Newsweek on Feb. 19, 2016, holding to his story of innocence.
“I first saw Ms. Kathleen Zellner on TV in another case. I told Sandy, my friend, to watch it,” he wrote. “Sandy said, ‘She will be the one to get you out.’…So I started writing [her.] Since she has taken my case on January 8th she has figured out more than all of my other attorneys together.”
Kathleen Zellner is a highly-motivated attorney who has successfully exonerated 17 men, winning them almost $90 million in wrongful conviction lawsuits. She is driven by a sense of justice, and she can’t stand the thought of innocent people sitting in jail when DNA evidence and other advanced technologies can be used to find the real killer.
Justice is coming
Kathleen was unable to take Steven’s case when he first wrote to her in 2011, but Steven and his girlfriend Sandy were finally able to convince her to help. The release of Making a Murderer in 2015 also helped her to see that Steven’s case was highly convoluted. She knew that he was an innocent man.
Kathleen officially took Steven’s case in January 2016, and she’s been working tirelessly to gather all of the evidence she needs to get him out. She told Newsweek, “When I watched the Avery case, I felt that the attitude toward him by the prosecutors and the state was that he was disposable. It was almost like a class thing. [His family] didn’t matter, they had no power. The longer I watched it, the more angry I got.”
Steven’s case will be her eighteenth exoneration case, and she feels confident that he’ll walk free soon. Kathleen feels that someone planted Steven’s DNA material around the crime scene in order to get him convicted. She also feels she knows who the true suspects are alongside the fact that Steven’s defense team failed to present evidence that was at their disposal to free him.
For the past two years, Kathleen has spent about $175,000 of her own money doing investigations, hiring experts, and filing appeals to bring Steven back to court. He can only be granted a trial if a judge feels that new evidence proving his innocence has been uncovered.
While a county judge denied her first request, Kathleen’s latest appeal is being considered by a Wisconsin state court. Kathleen vowed to take the case all the way to the Supreme Court if needed to get justice for Steven.
Part of the new evidence that she submitted in Dec of 2017 to get Steven a new trial are two videos showing experiments that prove that evidence was deliberately planted to make Steven look guilty.
One video shows a recreation of how the police said they found Teresa’s car key in Steven’s room. The police said that the key fell out of the bookcase and onto the floor when a book was removed. Kathy’s experiment showed that there was no way a key could have landed where it did in relation to the bookcase if that was true.
In the other video, actual blood from a volunteer was placed on the sink from Avery’s home to show that the blood spatter was deliberately planted and not spilled from a wound. Yet another video she made using blood showed that the few drops of Steven’s blood found in Teresa’s car were placed using Q-tips.
Kathleen also uncovered evidence showing that Teresa made two phone calls to a man who has since been arrested for sex crimes days before her murder and calls that Teresa made after leaving Steven’s property. As was shown in the courtroom and documentary, Teresa was receiving harassing calls from someone in the weeks before her death. Kathy likened Teresa to “prey being stalked.”
Kathleen has been critical of the work done by Steven’s former attorneys Dean Strang and Jerry Buting. “It’s absolutely shocking to see cellphone records that were part of the discovery that were turned over to the defense…document her route leaving the property,” she said of their failure to get Steven off of the charges. “She goes back the same way she came, she’s 12 miles from the property on the last ping. They screwed it up.”