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Efforts to overturn the 2007 conviction of a Wisconsin man who later became the subject of a popular Netflix documentary have run into difficulty — but his lawyer insists they will not stop until he is free.
Steven Avery, 59, was convicted in 2007 of the murder of Teresa Halbach, 25, in October 2005 and sentenced to life in prison. She was murdered and her body was burned on property belonging to Avery's family just two years after the Wisconsin Innocence Project used DNA evidence to help free Avery from prison after he had served 18 years of a 32 year sentence for a sexual assault and attempted murder that he did not commit. (Another man, convicted of a different rape 10 years later, was identified via DNA as the man who committed the assault for which Avery was convicted.)
Avery has long maintained that he is innocent of Halbach's killing, suggesting that local authorities set him up as retaliation for the $36 million wrongful conviction lawsuit he filed against the county, the former sheriff and the former district attorney responsible for his first, wrongful conviction. (He eventually settled that suit, after his conviction in the Halbach case, for $400,000.)
In 2015, Netflix released the 10-episode true crime documentary "Making A Murderer," about Avery, with the participation of Avery, his nephew Brendan Dassey (who was convicted as an accessory in Halbach's murder), their families and their lawyers. Focusing mainly on the events of Avery's first wrongful conviction and Avery's and Dassey's trials for Halbach's murder, it was so popular that Netflix commissioned a second, 10-episode season about Avery and Dassey's efforts to overturn their convictions.
Avery's current lawyer, Kathleen Zellner, has been filing appeals in his case to overturn his conviction, citing new evidence she argued had been found since his conviction that was then potentially destroyed before it could be tested under a court order, a witness whose statement she says was suppressed by the prosecution at Avery's original trial as well as legal issues with his defense and the consideration of his appeals. The appellate court has rejected most of her efforts, including as recently as July 28.
On Wednesday, Zellner filed an appeal of the appellate court's July decision to the Wisconsin Supreme Court, arguing that the appellate court was both wrong on the law in its rulings, incorrect in its recitation of facts in the case and inappropriately interjected its own interpretation of events into its ruling.
However, Marquette University law professor Michael O'Hear told the Appleton Post Crescent that the higher court need not take up the latest case — and might not, given that the appellate decision was unanimous. But, as the appellate court also directed Zellner and her team to take up the issue of the witness with the circuit court, there are yet other avenues for Avery's appeal.
"The defense team has generated a lot more new issues than I would have thought possible a few years ago," O'Hear told the paper. "I wouldn’t want to predict that we’re nearing the end now."
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