At the start of Part 2 of “Making a Murderer,” Steven Avery’s post-conviction lawyer Kathleen Zellner made it clear that she was dedicated to finding out the truth of what happened to Teresa Halbach. Now, as a result of that digging, she has a new theory about what happened to the murdered photographer.
Zellner explained that the work she's done on her post-conviction cases requires her to do two things simultaneously: take apart the state’s entire case and figure out exactly what happened. “I’m actually more driven by the desire to find out what happened because once I figure out what happened, then the state’s case collapses,” she said. “Both things have to be done because most courts are not going to vacate a murder conviction.”
She also said, “You would have to be an idiot to hire me to prove that you're guilty.”
The first season of the Netflix docu-series was released in 2015, and it raised many questions about the convictions of Avery and his nephew Brendan Dassey, who were both sentenced to life in prison in 2007 for the death of Halbach in 2005.
The documentary suggested that police might have planted evidence on Avery’s property and that investigators took advantage of Dassey’s limited intellect to coax him into confessing. Avery had previously served 18 years in prison after being wrongfully convicted of the sexual assault and attempted murder of Penny Beerntsen before being fully exonerated in 2003 through DNA evidence. He filed a suit against the county two years before he was arrested as a suspect in the Halbach murder, which the documentary suggests was the county's motive in framing him.
The second part of the docu-series shows how challenging it can be to overturn a conviction, and it focuses heavily on Zellner’s investigation into what really happened to Halbach.
Zellner explains that her investigation into the truth left her with some questions about Brendan Dassey’s brother Bobby (pictured).
During prior testimony detailed in an episode from Part 1 entitled “The Last Person To See Teresa Halbach Alive,” Bobby testified that he saw Halbach come to Avery's auto yard and take pictures of a vehicle. (She photographed vehicles for an auto magazine.)
“I seen a vehicle pull up in our driveway,” he said. “Because I was going hunting that night and that’s the time I wanted to get out.”
He then claimed after seeing Halbach get out of the vehicle and take pictures, she started walking over to Avery’s trailer.
He then testified that Avery asked him to help move the body. “Well my buddy Mike was over too and it sounded like he was joking honestly, but he asked us if we wanted us to help him get rid of the body,” Bobby testified.
That testimony proved pivotal in putting his uncle behind bars. But, Zellner suggests now he may not have been telling the truth.
“Perhaps he was pressured into that with threats of prosecution,” Zellner tweeted on Tuesday, calling him the prosecution's star witness.
“Bobby Dassey was lying,” Zellner said in Part 2 of the series, adding that she has an affidavit from another Dassey brother, Bryan Dassey, which claims Bobby told him that he saw Halbach leave the property. That contradicts Bobby's original testimony.
“Bryan should have been called to the defense to impeach Bobby,” she said.
Around the filming of the second part of the show, Zellner's investigators interviewed Bobby again. They said he was rattled when he found out they had his old computer hard drive. She said there is evidence that shows Bobby downloaded violent porn.
“We have found thousands and thousands of images that could only have been accessed by Bobby Dassey,” she said. She showed a document from her investigation team that showed he made internet searches like “11 year old sex,” “rotten girl,” “gun to head,” and “f--- preteen girl.”
“Torture, bondage, pedophilia, nightmare stuff,” she said. “Fascination with death. … decapitated girls, things like that. I mean, this is astounding.”
Zellner accused Bobby of compulsively making such searches for hundreds of hours.
She also said there is evidence to suggest he wasn’t sleeping the day Halbach was killed like he initially claimed. Instead, Zellner says there is evidence to show that he was online at the time.
The end result of Zellner's digging is that police interviewed Bobby again in 2017 about his testimony in the case.
“I know I didn’t do it,” he said in that interview.
Zellner's motion to grant Avery a new trial based on Bobby's computer searches and other possible evidence was denied in September.
But Zellner is far from giving up, according to her tweets.
"Steven Avery is at the BEGINNING not end of the appeal process. Our appellate brief is due 12/20. We have multiple opportunities to overturn this wrongful conviction," she wrote on Thursday.
[Photo: Associated Press]
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