White House Must Respond To Steven Avery Petition

by Chris Tognotti

Don't look now, but it seems like the White House is actually going to have to weigh in on the case of convicted murderer Steven Avery, the subject of Netflix's smash hit series Making a Murderer. The 10-episode documentary primarily follows the perspective of Avery's family and defense attorneys. They assert that he did not commit the 2005 murder of Wisconsin photographer Teresa Halbach, for which he was sentenced to life in prison without parole. And on Tuesday, a White House petition to pardon Steven Avery hit 100,000 signatures, meaning it's reached the threshold at which the administration owes it a response.

The White House petition system has been in effect for a few years, and it's a clever and worthwhile way to get people engaged on a variety of public issues. Of course, the petitions don't always reflect the soundest judgment or understanding. For example, as the Atlanta Journal Constitution details, President Obama actually can't pardon Avery, because he was convicted in a state murder trial. The responsibility falls to Wisconsin governor Scott Walker, who has already said that that it's not going to happen.

But the petition is nonetheless a good way to draw an official, on-the-record statement from the White House about issues they otherwise might never touch. And that's what'll be expected of them now that the Avery petition has crossed that crucial 100,000 signature mark.

Avery, along with his then-teenage nephew Brendan Dassey, was convicted for the Halbach murder amid allegations by their respective defense teams that they were being railroaded by the criminal justice system. In Avery's case, his lawyers, Dean Strang and Jerry Buting ― who've become somewhat unlikely stars themselves as a result of the documentary ― claimed that Manitowoc County law enforcement engaged in a series of misdeeds, including planting evidence, to frame Avery as the killer. These claims were denounced in angry terms by the prosecutor at the time, former district attorney Ken Kratz.

Here's what the petition says. Again, it's requesting something that isn't actually possible, as Avery and Dassey's convictions aren't under President Obama's authority. But it'll be interesting to see whether the White House response tackles the real core of the petition head-on; namely, the alleged miscarriages of justice seen in Making a Murderer.

Steven Avery and Brendan Dassey should be given a full pardon by President Obama for their wrongful conviction in the connection to the murder of Teresa Halbach.

Based on the evidence in the Netflix documentary series "Making a Murderer", the justice system embarrassingly failed both men, completely ruining their entire lives.

There is clear evidence that the Manitowoc County sheriff's department used improper methods to convict both Steven Avery and Brendan Dassey.

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.

Avery is in prison for life. Dassey was a teen with a low IQ and an evident learning disability when he "confessed" of the crime to authorities (which his defense claimed was the result of a coercive and leading four-hour interrogation). He will be eligible for release after 2048, at which point he'll be in his late 50s.

White House rules stipulate that a petition must receive more than 100,000 signatures in less than 30 days to ensure an official response, and this one was first launched Dec. 20. In other words, you should be hearing more about this very soon.