The new Netflix original series, Making a Murderer, has been compared to whodunnit storytelling masterpieces like HBO's The Jinx and the record-breaking podcast, Serial. If you've found yourself in doubt about Steven Avery's role in Teresa Halbach's death — the crime at the center of Making a Murderer — you're not alone as a groundswell of support for Avery has come from passionate viewers of the Netflix hit. If you're interested in trying to find ways to exonerate a man who's already been falsely accused and imprisoned once before, there are ways to help Making a Murderer's Steven Avery and his family.
Here's the rundown of what's happened to Avery: In 1985, Avery was convicted of the attempted rape and murder of Penny Beerntsen, and served 18 years in prison. With help from the Wisconsin Innocence Project, Avery was exonerated and released from prison. After filing a civil suit for $36 million against Manitowoc County, Wisconsin in 2003, Avery was arrested in 2005 for the murder of Teresa Halbach. He was found guilty in 2007, and now serves a life sentence without the possibility of parole. Making a Murderer explores a narrative that alleges authorities were so incensed over the embarrassment of Avery's 2003 exoneration that they framed him for Halbach's murder.
As Avery's case has exhausted Wisconsin appeals options, the biggest help Avery could get would be the discovery of new evidence that might exonerate him. Efforts to find this evidence and sort through existing evidence and case files are often tasked to Innocent Network groups who seek to exonerate the wrongfully convicted. While the Wisconsin Innocence Project took Avery's case regarding the TK rape, they have not opted to take his case regarding the Halbach murder. And while Avery now has new defense attorneys, one of whom is the Legal Director for the Midwest Innocence Project, it's not yet clear what — if any — innocence network group might take his case. That said, here's what you can do to help.
Don't Sign Any Petitions
As much as we'd like to believe that petitions will help Avery, sadly, they won't. Even though a White House petition to pardon Avery has gathered over 120,000 signatures, President Obama confirmed he cannot pardon Steven Avery. A similar Change.org petition is likely to go nowhere as well, given that clemency can only be granted by Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker. Walker has said he won't pardon Avery — or any other Wisconsin convict, for that matter — as long as he's in office.
Contribute to Steven Avery's Fundraising Site
Probably the simplest way to help is through Steven Avery's fundraising site. Avery's family recently launched a fundraising site for Avery and Brendan Dassey, Avery's cousin who was also convicted in the murder of Halbach. According to the fundraising website, Avery's family states that donations will be used for everything including "defense, investigation and other expenses of mounting this massive legal battle," as well as "postage, phone calls, commissary for Steven & Brendan, transportation" and even DNA and blood testing for evidence gathering.