How Long Was Steven Avery In Prison For His First And Wrongful Conviction? 'Making A Murderer' Begins In 1985
What has made Steven Avery's story so sensational for fans of Netflix's Making A Murderer isn't solely the seeming prosecutorial missteps made during his trial for the murder of 25-year-old Teresa Halbach. It's that Avery had already been wrongfully convicted of another crime some 20 years earlier. There's no question that the years Avery spent in prison for his wrongful conviction for the sexual assault of Penny Beerntsen mark a significant portion of the Wisconsin man's life.
Avery was convicted of sexual assault in 1985 and ultimately spent 18 years of his 32-year sentence in various institutions. Eight of those 18 years were done at the Green Bay Correctional Facility in Green Bay, Wisconsin, which is where nephew Brendan Dassey is currently serving time. Dassey was also convicted for Halbach's murder after a questionable confession made him party to Avery's alleged crime.
After multiple appeals and his staunch insistence that he was innocent, Avery's first conviction was overturned with the help of the Wisconsin Innocence Project, which took up his case. The group successfully petitioned to use new technology to test the DNA of an unidentified hair that was found on Beerntsen. The results proved that Gregory Allen, a man already in prison for various sexual crimes, was Beerntsen's attacker, thus allowing Avery to walk free.
That freedom lasted two years, however, when he was charged with Halbach's murder in 2005. In 2007, Avery was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole, which means today, Avery has spent roughly 26 out of 53 years of his life behind bars for crimes he claims he never did.
Making A Murderer has put into question whether Avery has once again been the victim of a faulty judicial system, and fervent viewers have flocked to his side through petitions and independent sleuthing to figure out who else may have been responsible for Halbach's murder. As the docuseries notes, Avery continues to work on his case while in prison in the hopes of winning a new hearing that could hold unlock the key to his freedom.