I am not sure if many of you will know this, but I read Law at university and have always had a keen interest in the law, especially criminal law. I loved Ally McBeal as a child and that’s what I wanted to do when I was younger – be a criminal lawyer. Fighting against crime! Sounds so far away from what I actually do now. But nevertheless I am still very interested in it all. It was only last week that hubby mentioned this documentary series that you can find on Netflix, Creating a murderer, that I heard about the Steven Avery case and my mind went crazy with theories and thoughts. The documentary is amazing, we have only watched the first two episodes but I am gripped. Such lengths they went to capture information and footage, it was filmed over 10 years.
Steven Avery history
So, for those of you who haven’t heard of Steven Avery, he is basically the guy from Wisconsin that was jailed for 18 years for a crime he did not commit. Before this, he did have a run in with the law a few times and had spent a number of years in prison – for burglary in a bar, setting fire to his “alive” cat and for assaulting his cousin and possessing a firearm. Now it was this cousin that bears the link to the next charge. In 1985, he was arrested for raping a young lady, Penny Beerntsen. This was because Penny, described what the suspect looked like to and someone from the police force suggest “that sounds like Steven Avery”. Penny pointed out Steven in a line up of 9 men and it was testified that a hair from Steven’s shirt was Penny’s. Now it is also worth noting at this point, the Netflix documentary focusses on the cousin that Steven had a run in with in previous years, she was married to the Manitowoc County sheriff’s deputy. It was suggested that because of this run in, the police force had it in for Steven. Hence the quick comment about the suspect sounding like Steven.
Steven had 16 alibi’s for that evening the rape took place, including reciepts and shop owners. The jury deliberated for just 4 hours and convicted Avery almost exclusively on the eyewitness account, on December 14, 1985. He was sentenced to 32 years in prison. 32 years?! Can you imagine being faced with that, knowing that you did not do the crime and also having all of those alibi’s that were simply ignored? How can you explain to someone you didn’t do it, if you didn’t do it? What I mean is, if someone is lying it is easy to trip them up – get them to blurt out the truth. But you cannot make things up if you are innocent, you can’t slip up the truth as you don’t know what happened, you was not there!
After trying to appeal his conviction several times and failing, he managed to get a petition for DNA testing approved in 1995 – which meant that they could test the DNA from the scrappings underneath Penny’s nails. This DNA came up as unknown person, which clearly wasn’t Steven’s – yet he still remained in prison. I just dont get it. Why would you not be asking questions about the scrappings?
He had 16 alibi’s which made it physically impossible for Steven to have been in the same place as the rape at the time and now the DNA underneath Penny’s nails had a different DNA source than that of Steven’s. Would that not trigger some kind of process?
Getting him out of prison
So failing several appeals, the new DNA evidence to indicate there is someone elses DNA under Penny’s nails – what options do you have? Thankfully in the USA there is a group called the Wisconsin Innocence Project and they accepted Steven’s case and decided to help him. They recovered 13 hairs from Penny from the scene of the assault and just one of those tiny hairs came up as a match for a Gregory Allen. Who had been known to the police at the time of the assault as committing crimes in the area. They had ignored Gregory Allen though, as they focussed on arresting Steven.