Emails About Steven Avery & Brendan Dassey Sent To The Sheriff's Department Are Ardent In Their Outrage
It's been months since the headline-grabbing Netflix documentary series Making a Murderer premiered, and its impact is clearly still being felt. Wrongfully convicted of rape in 1985, and ultimately serving 18 years in prison before DNA evidence freed him in 2003, Avery and his nephew Brendan Dassey were tried and convicted for the murder of 25-year-old photographer Teresa Halbach in 2005. And with the heightened attention of the series, emails supporting Steven Avery and Brendan Dassey flooded the Manitowoc County Sheriff's Department in December and January.
For critics of Avery and Dassey's imprisonment (some people take more issue with Dassey's imprisonment than Avery's), one of the most major issues is always the involvement of law enforcement authorities in Manitowoc County, Wisconsin, the home turf of the Avery clan. During Avery's trial, his defense attorneys Jerome Buting and Dean Strang argued that the authorities had allegedly planted evidence against Avery, possibly as retribution for a multi-million dollar lawsuit he'd filed over his 1985 wrongful conviction. The Manitowoc County Sheriff's Department has always adamantly denied this.
Dassey's conviction was controversial on its own — some experts in false confessions have cited him as a prime example of a vulnerable person caving under questioning, ultimately falsely admitting to participating in Halbach's murder. The sheriff's department maintains that Dassey's confession was obtained via standard procedure. Thanks to his full confession to police investigators having been posted to YouTube, you can now watch it yourself.
It's no shock given the revealing and engrossing nature of the documentary series that people are motivated about these cases, and as John Ferak detailed on Tuesday for USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin, it's caused the Manitowoc County Sheriff's Department to receive hundreds of outraged emails. Manitowoc County Board Chairman Jim Brey wrote, "Some of the emails, in my opinion, have been borderline threatening. Not to myself but to members of our law enforcement community." Here are a few of them that Ferak highlighted, pulled from a trove that the department turned over after USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin's public records request.
- "I just wanted to reach out with disgust at how your department handled the Steven Avery case. The facts are obvious that your department had something to do with this and a cover-up looks to be very clear. Your department has lost all credibility and right now is in the media because of your inability to prove justice ... One day it will come out that James Lenk and Andrew Colborn planted evidence in this case that lead (sic) to Steven’s arrest. What will your department come out and say then? You better hope you have a good PR team handy."
- "The documentary exposes the level of corruption in your department. Nothing you say will convince vast majority of your citizens that you are good guys. The facts and evidence tell a different story. Steven Avery and Brendan Dassey are innocent. Your department is corrupt and all of you should be prosecuted to the highest extend (sic) of law."
- "I had recently fell into a large sum of money and was thinking of moving to your county, but after what I saw concerning your department’s cover-up and framing Steven Avery and his nephew, I was seriously taken aback. There is NO WAY I will move there, your state prosecutor is a snake, your judges are corrupt and the ease in which you framed those two innocent men, well your cover-up has just reaffirmed my mistrust in the judicial system and police. Nice job!"
- "As the father of a Down syndrome age 16 daughter, I know how easy it is to manipulate a mentally challenged person by promising what they want at a precise moment. Regardless of guilt or innocence, what your office did to manipulate that young man’s testimony in the Avery case was repulsive and I would suspect unconstitutional. That will be determined in federal court, I hope ... Hopefully you run a more honest and transparent ship than did the prior sheriff."
Ferak cites 16 more emails culled from the hundreds that were turned over, so if you're interested, take a look. It remains to be seen whether Avery and Dassey will indeed get the new trials (or even the outright exonerations) that their supporters plainly want, but it's looking pretty clear that this story will be associated with Manitowoc County for a long time.
Avery is currently serving a life sentence without parole, while Dassey won't be eligible for release until 2048, when he'll be 59 years old — more than 40 years of his life behind bars. Both Dassey and Avery are working through the appeals process at the moment. Avery has enlisted a new attorney in his fight, a wrongful conviction specialist named Kathleen Zellner.
Images: Making a Murderer/Netflix (3)