Judge Rejects Steven Avery's Request for a New Trial in the Death of Teresa Halbach

Oct 3, 2017

Sheboygan County Circuit Judge Angela Sutkiewicz said Tuesday that Steven Avery should not get a new trial.

Avery was convicted of first-degree intentional homicide in the death of Teresa Halbach, whose remains were discovered on Avery's property in Manitowoc County. Halbach was a photographer who took photos for a magazine that listed cars and trucks for sale. In October 2005, she was assigned to drive to Avery's home to take photos of a vehicle, where prosecutors say Avery tortured and killed her.

Avery and his teenage nephew, Brendan Dassey, were found guilty of the crime. Both were sentenced to life in prison. Avery argued that he should get a new trial, because his conviction was based on false testimony and evidence that was planted at the scene. Judge Sutkiewicz ruled that Avery failed to establish grounds for a new trial.

Dassey's fate is in the hands of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. Dassey's conviction was overturned last year, based on questions raised about his confession. Dassey's attorneys say he has a low IQ, which allowed detectives to coax the confession from him. The Court of Appeals will decide whether to reinstate the conviction.

The case has received widespread attention for several reasons. Before Halbach's death, Avery already was well-known in Wisconsin. He had been convicted in the 1985 rape of a woman, and was serving a lengthy prison sentence, until the Wisconsin Innocence Project helped exonerate him in 2003. Avery went on to file a multi-million dollar lawsuit against Manitowoc County.

The case got renewed attention nearly two years ago, when Netflix released what it called a "real-life thriller," Making a Murderer. The 10-part documentary series featured Avery's lengthy history with law enforcement, as well as footage from Dassey's interrogation and both Dassey's and Avery's trials for Halbach's murder. The series implies that evidence may have been mishandled and that Dassey's confession, which also implicated Avery, was obtained under duress. The series was a hit, and spurred many of its viewers to call for new trials -- or pardons -- for Avery and Dassey. Meanwhile, others found the editing to be misleading -- even manipulative.