Saturday, August 22, 2020

Steven Avery; Brendan Dassey; (Forensic and false confession issues): USA (Reporter Andy Thompson) updates the two cases: Avery: All briefs filed: Way is clear for appeal court to render decision: Dassey: (Avery's nephew) is seeking clemency. But no guarantee governor will even consider the request, the Appleton Post-Crescent (Reporter Andy Thompson) reports;

PUBLISHER'S NOTE: This Blog is interested in false confessions because of the disturbing number of exonerations in the USA, Canada and multiple other jurisdictions throughout the world, where, in the absence of incriminating forensic evidence the conviction is based on self-incrimination – and because of the growing body of  scientific research showing how vulnerable suspects are to widely used interrogation methods  such as  the notorious ‘Reid Technique.’ As  all too many of this Blog's post have shown, I also recognize that pressure for false confessions can take many forms, up to and including physical violence, even physical and mental torture.

Harold Levy: Publisher; The Charles Smith Blog:


BACKGROUND: Steven Avery and Brendan Dassey:  (Thank you Wikipedia): "Steven Allan Avery (born July 9, 1962) is an American convicted murderer from Manitowoc County, Wisconsin,[1] who had previously been wrongfully convicted in 1985 of sexual assault and attempted murder. After serving 18 years of a 32-year sentence, he was exonerated by DNA testing and released in 2003, only to be charged with murder two years later.[2][3] Following his release in 2003, Avery filed a $36 million lawsuit against Manitowoc County, its former sheriff, and its former district attorney for wrongful conviction and imprisonment. In November 2005, with his civil suit still pending, he was arrested for the murder of Wisconsin photographer Teresa Halbach, and in 2007 was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment without possibility of parole. The conviction was upheld by higher courts.[4] Avery's 2003 exoneration prompted widespread discussion of Wisconsin's criminal justice system. The Criminal Justice Reform Bill, enacted into law in 2005, implemented reforms aimed at preventing future wrongful convictions. Avery's 2007 murder trial and its associated issues are the focus of the 2015 Netflix original documentary series Making a Murderer, which also covered the arrest and 2007 conviction of Avery's nephewBrendan Dassey.[5] In August 2016, a federal judge overturned Dassey's conviction on the grounds that his confession had been coerced.[6][7] In June 2017, Wisconsin prosecutors appealed this decision. In December 2017, a panel of seven judges of the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit ruled in favor of upholding the original conviction by a vote of 4 to 3, ruling that police had properly obtained Dassey's confession.[8] On February 20, 2018, Dassey's legal team, including former Solicitor General of the United States Seth Waxman, filed a petition for a writ of certiorari to the United States Supreme Court. On June 25, 2018, certiorari was denied.[9="


PASSAGE OF THE DAY: "PASSAGE OF THE DAY:  "In Avery's case, Zellner has asked the appeals court to either allow additional scientific testing and an evidentiary hearing, or reverse Avery's conviction and grant a new trial."

GIST: Legal briefs have been submitted and a fierce debate over guilt and innocence has been waged. Now, a Wisconsin appeals court will determine whether Steven Avery's conviction in the death of Teresa Halbach will stand.


Avery's attorney, Kathleen Zellner, of suburban Chicago, filed her final brief with the District 3 Court of Appeals on June 25, clearing the way for the panel to review the case.

Meanwhile, Avery's nephew Brendan Dassey, who also was convicted in Halbach's death and is serving a life term in prison, is still hopeful that Gov. Tony Evers will grant his clemency request.

Evers has previously declined to consider a pardon for Dassey, but his attorneys and supporters continue to seek a favorable clemency ruling from the governor. No indication has been given that the governor will even consider the request.

The case gained international attention after being featured in Netflix's docuseries "Making a Murderer," released in December 2015. It cast doubt on the motives of police investigating Halbach's death and left many viewers with the impression that Avery, 57, and Dassey, 30, were wrongfully convicted.

In Avery's case, Zellner has asked the appeals court to either allow additional scientific testing and an evidentiary hearing, or reverse Avery's conviction and grant a new trial.

"We’re going to win this!" Zellner wrote in a June 25 post on Twitter.

They asked the appeal court to reject Zellner's arguments in a reply filed with the court in late May, arguing Avery's claims were speculative, inconsistent and far-fetched, and that he "seems to erroneously believe that he is appealing the jury's determination of guilt."

"The question on appeal is not whether Avery is guilty of killing Teresa Halbach," prosecutors argued. "That question was for the jury, which many years ago answered yes, beyond a reasonable doubt."

In August 2019, Sheboygan County Judge Angela Sutkiewicz rejected Avery's request for a new trial. Avery argued his conviction was flawed because state prosecutors were mistaken when they turned over suspected human bones to Halbach's family without allowing his side to have them tested. There was no hearing on the issue.

A legal expert with no ties to the case says a hearing is justified, even though Avery still faces a daunting challenge to set aside his conviction.

"An appeal like this is inherently a long shot. After conviction, the presumption of innocence vanishes and a presumption of guilt takes hold. It takes a lot to rebut that presumption in a post-conviction filing like this," said Daniel Medwed, professor of law and criminal justice at Northeastern University in Boston.

"That said, Zellner raised a number of important issues that, in my view, should be vetted in a thorough evidentiary hearing on the new allegations. Finality is an important value, to be sure, but it shouldn’t come at the price of justice. And in this case, I think justice at a minimum requires a full and robust hearing on whether Avery deserves a new trial."

The court of appeals website lists the Avery case as "awaiting assignment."

"I assume that means awaiting assignment to a decisional process, which could involve oral argument versus decision on the briefs alone," said Michael M. O'Hear, professor of law at Marquette University Law School.

O'Hear said he expects a ruling from the court within eight to 12 months, maybe less.

Zellner has argued that Avery should be allowed to present new evidence she says shows inconsistencies in the state's theory of the case, specifically that Halbach was shot in the head on Avery's garage floor. She also claims a forensic fire expert was able to determine that no body was ever burned in Avery's burn pit.

Jerry Buting, who represented Avery at his 2007 trial with attorney Dean Strang, said in a recent tweet that an evidentiary hearing is warranted. He said he appeals court is "likely to order a full hearing with testimony from witnesses and a new judge.""

The entire story can be read at:

PUBLISHER'S NOTE: I am monitoring this case/issue. Keep your eye on the Charles Smith Blog for reports on developments. The Toronto Star, my previous employer for more than twenty incredible years, has put considerable effort into exposing the harm caused by Dr. Charles Smith and his protectors - and into pushing for reform of Ontario's forensic pediatric pathology system. The Star has a "topic"  section which focuses on recent stories related to Dr. Charles Smith. It can be found at: Information on "The Charles Smith Blog Award"- and its nomination process - can be found at: Please send any comments or information on other cases and issues of interest to the readers of this blog to:  Harold Levy: Publisher: The Charles Smith Blog;
FINAL WORD:  (Applicable to all of our wrongful conviction cases):  "Whenever there is a wrongful conviction, it exposes errors in our criminal legal system, and we hope that this case — and lessons from it — can prevent future injustices."
Lawyer Radha Natarajan:
Executive Director: New England Innocence Project;