Credit: Netflix

For the first time in his life, Steven Avery has the support of hundreds of thousands of people.

The Making a Murderer subject can’t stop grinning these days, his longtime companion, Sandy Greenman, tells PEOPLE.

“Right now, Steven’s in a really good place,” she says. “It’s not just [that he’s got a new] lawyer, it’s the people. It makes him smile.”

Greenman says that she and Avery didn’t anticipate the Netflix series would get this much attention, but they’re thrilled that it did. “It’s a firestorm,” she says. “I didn’t expect it to be this big. We have messages from all over, different countries, different states. It’s nice to know that people support us.”

She adds: “It just seems like it gives more hope to Steve.”

And though Greenman and Avery’s relationship has cooled off over the years, they remain close friends and she still talks to him twice a week. “I can’t see him as a guilty person,” she says.

With a “fierce” new legal team behind Avery, Greenman is hopeful that he will be free soon.

“I’m hoping she can uncover new evidence,” says Greenman of Chicago lawyer Kathleen Zellner, who’s heading up Avery’s defense, along with Tricia Bushnell, the legal director of the Midwest Innocence Project. “There’s a lot going on that she knows is wrong.”

Greenman adds: “I have confidence that if there’s anything there, she’ll find it.”

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