In 2015, Netflix released a series called “Making A Murderer” which was an instant sensation. The documentary about the life of Steven Avery looks like anything that could have come out of a hard-hitting crime thriller written by someone as good as James Ellroy, but it is the true story of a man who, after being wrongly convicted of sexual assault and attempted murder and spending 18 years, was exonerated only to go back to prison for murder. What makes the whole case interesting is the question that no one can really answer: Is he still innocent?
Steven Avery Biography
The earliest life of Steven Allan Avery was nothing unusual; he was born on July 9, 1962, into a family that was quite normal in almost every way. He was raised by his parents, Dolores and Allan Avery, along with his three siblings, Chuck, Earl, and Barb. His family lived in Two Rivers, Wisconsin, where they also ran a scrapyard.
Although everything seemed normal, Steven was a slow learner, so he attended an elementary school for slower children. As his lawyer later revealed, Avery had an IQ of 70, which made it almost impossible for him to function in school.
By the time he was 18 years old, Avery’s path had already begun to cross with the law. He was initially arrested and convicted of breaking into a bar, but he spent only 10 months of his two-year sentence before being paroled. The next trouble he would get into with the law was in 1982 when he was sent to jail for animal cruelty after he and some friends had burned a cat. He was supposed to stay behind bars until 1983, only to get into trouble with the law again after pointing a gun at his cousin who was spreading false rumors about him because she didn’t like him. He was sentenced to six years for this crime.
In 1982 he married Lori Mathiesen, but the marriage ended in divorce in 1988. The couple had four children together.
In 1985 he was arrested again for assaulting and sexually abusing a woman, Penny Beerntsen, while she was jogging. Although he had an alibi and 16 witnesses who confirmed this, he was still convicted of rape and attempted murder, for which he was sentenced to 32 years behind bars.
Someone else was supposed to confess to the crime later, in 1995, but Thomas Kocourek, who was then the sheriff of Manitowoc County, set it aside and claimed he already had his man behind bars. Yet in 2002, Steven Avery would be found innocent of the crime thanks to a DNA test that showed that the person who confessed to the crime, Gregory Allen, was in fact the man who did it.
Avery’s troubles would continue in 2005 when a woman named Teresa Halbach, who was a photographer, went missing. The interesting thing was that at that time she had an appointment with Steven Avery at home. Her car was later found at Avery’s car rescue site with bloodstains that would later match his DNA. Although he insisted that it was all a setup, Avery was sentenced to life in prison for first-degree murder. His nephew, Brendan Dassey, who confessed after interrogation to having helped Avery commit the crime, was sentenced to life in prison for the same crime and for sexually assaulting and mutilating a corpse.
Nevertheless, both men continue to insist on their innocence, with Dassey claiming he was coerced into his confession. According to one juror who excused himself from the trial, the jury had found Avery not guilty, but he was surprised when he just came and realized that suddenly everything changed.
Where Is He Now?
Steven Avery is now still working at Waupun Prison in Waupun, where he has been since 2012. Prior to that, he was incarcerated for 5 years at the Wisconsin Secure Program Facility in Boscobel, where he served time for illegal weapons possession.
During the trial, his lawyers announced that they had discovered that the blood from his trail had been unsealed in 1996, believing that his blood had been sourced from there and planted in Halbach’s car. Efforts to reopen the trial, which was supposed to take place in 2017 at the latest, have all failed. Because of this and many other twists and turns, in this case, there are many who believe that Avery is just a victim of corrupt officials who have wronged an innocent man. For this reason, a petition to obtain a pardon for Avery and Dassey failed in 2016 because both men are in state prisons, so it can only be obtained at the state level.
After his first wrongful conviction, Steven Avery dragged Thomas Kocourek, Manitowoc County, and the county’s former district attorney, Denis Vogel, to court for his wrongful conviction. He sought payment of $18 million in punitive damages and another $18 million in compensatory damages, for a total of $36 million.
Later, however, he was only compensated with $400,000. There is no record that he was able to earn even more money to provide him with any significant net worth. In fact, his parents had to sell their business in order to continue to fight for justice for him because they, like many others who have followed his story, believe he is just another innocent man behind bars.