MILWAUKEE — Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker will not pardon a man convicted with his nephew in a case dramatized in the television documentary “Making a Murderer,” despite online petitions seeking their release, his office said on Wednesday.
Steven Avery and his nephew Brendan Dassey are serving life sentences in the 2005 killing of freelance photographer Teresa Halbach, who was found outside Avery’s home in Manitowoc County, Wisconsin.
Walker, a former Republican presidential candidate, is not swayed by more than 300,000 signatures on online petitions at the Change.org website calling for Avery’s exoneration, Walker spokeswoman Laurel Patrick said.
“Those who feel they have been wrongly convicted can seek to have their convictions overturned by a higher court,” she said.
A Whitehouse.gov petition asking President Barack Obama to pardon the men has received more than 113,000 signatures, more than the 100,000 needed for the administration to comment on the request.
However, the president does not have the authority to issue pardons on state cases. Only Walker, who has not issued a pardon since his election in 2010, has that power.
The 10-episode documentary “Making a Murderer” on the Netflix streaming service questioned the handling of the case and the motivation of Manitowoc County law enforcement officials.
Avery was convicted of an unrelated rape and sent to prison in 1985, serving 18 years before DNA evidence exonerated him. He filed a $36 million federal civil rights lawsuit against the county, along with its former sheriff and district attorney, in 2004. That case was settled in 2006 for about $400,000, according to online court documents.
A year after he filed the lawsuit, Avery and Dassey were accused of killing Halbach. They were convicted in 2007 and sentenced to life in prison.
The documentary suggests authorities planted evidence against the men, a claim that has been rejected by Robert Hermann, the current sheriff of Manitowoc County, which is about 80 miles north of Milwaukee.