As Part 2 of the wildly popular docu-series “Making a Murderer” dropped this week on Netflix, the lawyer representing the show’s main subject has revealed her belief that he will someday walk free thanks to “explosive evidence” in the case.
Kathleen Zellner, convicted killer Steven Avery’s attorney, told People in an exclusive interview that since she has signed on to represent Avery, she has uncovered “big, explosive evidence” including her claim that prosecutors have withheld evidence from the defense. Zellner has been representing Avery since 2016.
The first season of the show was released one year earlier, in 2015, and it raised 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 photographer Teresa 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 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.
Through public court filings, Zellner has cited experts who claim that Halbach was not burned where her remains were found, a conclusion that the prosecution had made before the first trial. In the 2017 motion, Zellner wrote, “As of the filing of this petition, Mr. Avery has been locked up for 10,909 days for crimes he did not commit. Mr. Avery has been alive for 20,058 days, so over 54% of his life has been spent behind bars.”
The first 220 pages of the appeal are available on Zellner’s website. The appeal argues that there is new evidence that proves that Avery’s DNA was planted. Zellner said she had new scientific testing done, which previously wasn’t available. The attorney also stated in the motion that the bullet fragment found in Avery's garage was not the bullet shot through Halbach's head. She said a microscopic examination of the hood latch on Halbach's vehicle proved that Avery's DNA did not get there by him touching the car. Zellner claimed that the DNA found on a key contained too many cells to be transferred by Avery just holding it. She said it could have been planted using something like Avery's toothbrush.
Zellner wrote in her motion that other suspects weren’t ruled out in the last trial. She stated that Halbach’s ex-boyfriend had misled investigators about damage on Halbach's vehicle. Zellner also claimed that the ex had motive to kill her.
“We believe the case will ultimately collapse when it gets to the higher courts within Wisconsin,” Zellner told People in a report published this week.
Since the success of the first season, attempts to get both men out of jail have been made. A federal magistrate judge overturned Dassey's conviction in 2016, citing the fact that the detectives on the case took advantage of his youth and cognitive disabilities in obtaining their confession. However, a federal appeals court ruled his confession should stand and, earlier this year, the nation's highest court announced it would not take up Dassey’s case.
“He will die in prison before he would ever take a deal,” Zellner told People about her client. “That’s why I’m so positive that he’s innocent. … That’s the strongest characteristic of someone who’s innocent: They’ll die in prison before they will admit guilt, and that’s Steven Avery.”
Part 2 of “Making a Murderer” has “chronicled the experience of the convicted and imprisoned, two men each serving life sentences for crimes they maintain they did not commit," the show’s executive producers, writers and directors Laura Ricciardi and Moira Demos said in a statement.
[Photo: Calumet County Jail]
Searching for the best true crime podcasts? Subscribe to Martinis & Murder and join hosts Daryn Carp and John Thrasher as they chat about creepy crimes and unsolved mysteries... while sipping on killer drinks from our murderous mixologist Matt the Bartender. Each episode will focus on a new true crime, with all the gory details, and a cocktail recipe to get you through.