A pair of petitions calling for the release of Steven Avery, subject of Netflix’s new true crime series Making a Murderer, from prison have garnered nearly 200,000 signatures from fans who believe the man was wrongly convicted of murder.
Making a Murderer follows the criminal cases of Avery, who was convicted in 2005 of sexually assaulting and murdering photographer Teresa Halbach and sentenced to life in prison. Avery had previously served 18 years in prison after being convicted in a separate sexual assault case, but was released in 2003 when DNA evidence found he didn’t commit the crime. The series explores how the circumstances of Avery’s earlier arrest and false conviction may have played a role in his later murder conviction.
As a result of the documentary series, fans have petitioned President Obama to grant Avery and his nephew Brendan Dassey, who was separately convicted of helping his uncle kill Halbach, a pardon.
“Avery’s unconstitutional mistreatment at the hands of corrupt local law enforcement is completely unacceptable and is an abomination of due process,” a Change.org petition addressed to Obama reads. “Steven Avery should be exonerated at once by presidential pardon, and the Manitowoc County [Wisconsin] officials complicit in his two false imprisonments should be held accountable to the highest extent of the U.S. criminal and civil justice systems.”
The petition had gathered more than 170,000 signatures as of Monday morning.
Another petition hosted at the official White House website had gathered nearly 20,000 signatures by Monday.
“Based on the evidence in the Netflix documentary series Making a Murderer, the justice system embarrassingly failed both men, completely ruining their entire lives,” reads the White House petition. “This is a black mark on the justice system as a whole, and should be recognized as such, while also giving these men the ability to live as normal a life as possible.”
The White House will be forced to issue an official response to the petition if it reaches 100,000 signatures.
Maitowoc County Sheriff Robert Hermann defended the area’s law enforcement community and said Making a Murderer did not get all of the facts right.
“A documentary puts things in chronological order and tells the story as it is. … I’ve heard things are skewed,” Hermann told USA Today. “They’ve taken things out of context and taken them out of the order in which they occurred, which can lead people to a different opinion or conclusion.”
Hermann also said Avery’s 2005 arrest was not in any way influenced by his 2003 conviction, as the show apparently tries to impress upon viewers. Avery had reportedly been attempting to sue the county for $36 million over his wrongful conviction when he was re-arrested in 2005.
“Show me the evidence he was framed. There is not going to be any. It didn’t happen,” Hermann added. “I don’t know why anybody in law enforcement would want to get him, that makes no sense.”
Netflix’s Making a Murderer premiered December 18. All 10 episodes are available for streaming now.