US authorities are this weekend weighing the merits of several petitions seeking the exoneration of Steven Avery , the central character of the hit Netflix documentary series Making a Murderer, after an overwhelming response from viewers who believe he was framed.
Since Netflix released the 10-part series in mid-December, more than 275,000 viewers have signed a petition asking President Obama to overturn Avery’s conviction for the murder of a young photographer called Teresa Halbach in October 2005.
In a statement, the White House explained that action in this case would need to be taken at state level – in this instance, Wisconsin. A petition directed at Wisconsin’s governor, Scott Walker , on Change.org has 6,300 supporters, but the governor has said that he will grant no pardons.
Filmed over 10 years, the Netflix series tells the story of how Avery was arrested and convicted of murder in a small Wisconsin town after being released from an 18-year sentence for a rape he did not commit.
The series has also established Netflix as a significant force in criminal justice. The series has become the TV equivalent of last year’s gripping Serial, the podcast that reopened the 1999 case over the murder of a high-school student in Baltimore.
But, like any whodunnit that invites the onlooker to think as an armchair detective, the facts of the case are subjective: this is not a trial, but the truncated representation of one by journalists.
While the series has made heroes of defence lawyers Dean Strang and Jerome Buting, they concede that the praise they’re getting is no more balanced than the criticism they received during the trial. “Both of those experiences are artificial and distorting ,” Strang said. Neither of them represents any particular reality other than what’s going on in fevered social media among a self-selected portion of the population.
The prosecutor, Ken Kratz, last week accused the programme’s makers – Laura Ricciardi and Moira Demos – of withholding important evidence that led a jury to convict Avery and his nephew, Brendan Dassey.
The film was a result of the film-makers’ “agenda” to portray Avery as innocent and stoke public outrage. “That is absolutely what they wanted to happen,” added Kratz.
Prosecutor Ken Kratz accused programme makers Laura Ricciardi and Moira Demos of withholding important evidenceADVERTISEMENT
Rival networks, including Investigation Discovery, have since said they had passed on the series. “I think the audience needs to understand the complete picture,” says Henry Schleiff, president of Investigation Discovery .
The Netflix documentary is damning of the criminal justice system’s treatment of the two men. Two years after DNA evidence was used to clear Avery of sexual assault in 2003, and as he was starting a claim for $36m in damages, he was accused of the murder of Halbach, who had visited his property to take pictures of a vehicle for Auto Trader.
Avery’s blood was found inside Halbach’s vehicle, and the documentary explains the defence theory that it could have been planted there from a vial in the possession of the police. Evidence also includes Avery’s DNA from sweat found on a latch under the bonnet of the victim’s Toyota. If the police had planted the blood from the vial, could they also have planted sweat?
Prosecutors argue that the presence of sweat is “inconsistent with any kind of planting”. The defence said it was never identified as sweat and that its presence did not require that Avery touched the car.
A bullet with Halbach’s DNA on it, found in Avery’s garage, was matched to a rifle that hung over his bed; Halbach’s phone, camera and handbag were found burned in a barrel 20ft from Avery’s trailer.
Avery was convicted and sentenced to life in prison without parole. His 16-year-old nephew Dassey was also convicted of participating in the murder.
Countering that, one juror later admitted that the jury had needed to “compromise” over the charges and now says she believes in his innocence.
Meanwhile, the BBC has announced it is finalising a true-crime series on an alleged miscarriage of justice, hoping that it can replicate the impact of Making a Murderer. It declines to reveal the case concerned or whether police malpractice is involved, but the series will focus on asking, like the Netflix crime series, whether the right person is in prison.
Louise Shorter, who worked on the current BBC investigation, The Station, said the miscarriage of justice it claimed it had unearthed was compelling.
“For me, all cases where somebody is saying, ‘I didn’t do this’ and there are strands of evidence that can be followed and re-examined and looked at again, is always riveting,” said Shorter, who set up Inside Justice, a miscarriage of justice investigative unit that has been asked to investigate 963 cases since July 2010.
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media 2016
Biden tells billionaires that things wouldn’t change under his administration
Don't worry, billionaires: your standard of living won't change under a Joe Biden administration.
That's the message the Democratic frontrunner delivered to donors Tuesday as he continued a fundraising trip in New York that saw him on Monday tell a room of wealthy Wall Streeters "you guys are great" and ask a Trump-loving supermarket magnate for support.
In Biden's comments Tuesday, the former vice president told a room of 100 of the New York financial elite, including bankers Robert Rubin and Roger Altman, both of whom worked in the Treasury Department under Democratic administrations, that he wasn't their enemy. According to Bloomberg reporter Jennifer Epstein, Biden took pains to separate himself from the rest of the field in his comments.
Video of bear cub being stoned to death in Iran sparks outcry
A video of a bear cub being stoned to death by villagers in Iran has sparked horror and prompted police action after it was posted online on June 16
In the video, taken in a forest in Mazandaran Province in northern Iran, around a dozen men are seen throwing stones at the cub, which appears to be in a state of shock. A woman can be heard calling for the group to stop. Later, some of the men are seen tying a cord around the unconscious bear and dragging it to the side of a road.
The video quickly went viral, and many online users began searching for the perpetrators.A screenshot from the video.
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New details revealed in the bizarre story of Jerry Falwell Jr, a pool boy and ‘compromising photographs’
The New York Times has put together a lengthy report about the utterly bizarre circumstances surrounding Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr., former Trump "fixer" Michael Cohen, a former pool boy, and purportedly "compromising photographs."
The story begins in 2012 when Falwell and his wife enjoyed a stay at the Fontainebleau, a Florida luxury resort known for topless sunbathing and a massive underground nightclub described by one travel guide as "30,000 square feet of unadulterated fun."