A petition asking the Obama administration to “pardon Steven Avery and Brendan Dassey for the alleged involvement in the murder of Teresa Halbach” — allegations recently brought into the spotlight thanks to Netflix documentary series Making a Murderer — has exceeded 100,000 signatures, meaning that the White House must now respond.
“Based on the evidence in the Netflix documentary series Making a Murderer, the justice system embarrassingly failed both men, completely ruining their entire lives,” the petition reads. ” … This is a black mark on the justice system as a whole, and should be recognized as such, while also giving these men the ability to live as normal a life as possible.”
According to the terms of participation on the We the People site, where the petition was made, “a petition must reach 100,000 signatures within 30 days” to “require a response.” This specific petition was published on Dec. 20 and currently has over 115,000 signatures.
Multiple petitions asking for Avery and Dassey to be pardoned have sprung up since Making a Murderer debuted Dec. 18, but Ken Kratz — the special prosecutor in Avery’s murder case — maintains that the series doesn’t tell the whole story.
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“I believe there to be 80 to 90 percent of the physical evidence, the forensic evidence, that ties Steven Avery to this murder never to have been presented in this documentary,” he recently told Fox.
He also went on Good Morning America Tuesday to say that Making a Murderer “wasn’t a documentary.” “It was a defense piece, generated by and for Steven Avery by his defense team,” he said. “It wasn’t until Netflix decided to repackage it that both sides were invited to participate.”
Moira Demos, who made the film along with Laura Ricciardi, told Fox that Kratz rejected their invitations to be interviewed for the series. “We believe the series is what we witnessed,” Demos said. “The key pieces of the state’s evidence are included in the series.”
According to the Department of Justice’s website, “the power to grant pardons is vested in the President alone,” but there’s a caveat: The president can only pardon federal criminal convictions, and Avery was convicted of a crime against the state of Wisconsin, not against the United States. As a result, there’s not really much the White House can do in this situation — the Wisconsin governor, Scott Walker, is the only one in this case with the power to pardon Avery.
Walker, though, doesn’t seem willing: “Just because a documentary on TV says something doesn’t mean that’s actually what the evidence shows,” Walker told Fox Tuesday. “The bottom line is that there was a crime that was committed a decade ago. There is a system in the judicial system by which individuals can petition the courts to get relief like others have done in the past that shows that someone might actually be innocent. But I am not going to override a system that is already put in place.”
Read more about the Avery petitions here, and watch Making a Murderer on Netflix.