POLITICS

Steven Avery’s Appeal May Fail, But It's Not His Only Option

The "Making a Murderer" convict has a new lawyer, who says she's got new evidence.

Steven Avery’s appeal might not be his get out of jail free card -- but evidence his new attorney claims to have could be.

The Wisconsin convict, whose story of mistreatment in the justice system has gone worldwide in the Netflix documentary "Making a Murderer," filed motions Monday arguing that he was denied the right to a fair trial.

He appears to have filed the motions without the help of counsel. In paperwork fraught with spelling and grammar errors and bearing only his signature, Avery says police obtained an improper warrant to search his property for the remains of slain photographer Teresa Halbach, of whose murder he was later convicted. He also says he had ineffective legal counsel and that one unidentified juror strong-armed others into finding him guilty.

"[The juror] made repeated, numerous, 'He is fucking guilty' as well as telling other jurors, 'If you can't handle it why don't you tell them and just leave,'" Avery wrote.

He'll have a difficult time swaying the appeals court in Madison. Appeals filed by murder convicts who have no possibility of parole -- like Avery -- already have little chance of success, and legal experts say courts can be skeptical of filings made without a lawyer.

"The odds are stacked against him," Daniel Medwed, a law professor at Northeastern University and a former public defender, told The Huffington Post. "After trial and a guilty verdict, the presumption of innocence vanishes, replaced by a presumption of guilt," he said. 

"It is particularly difficult to win on an ineffectiveness claim," he added. "Avery would have to show deficient performance AND that the result would have been different without the deficiency. It's a very high hurdle to clear."

Though there was public outcry after Avery was convicted of first-degree intentional homicide in 2007, his notoriety will make little difference to the court, Medwed said.

But the notoriety of the new lawyer he retained last week might.

Kathleen Zellner, who claims she's righted more wrongful convictions than any other private attorney in the United States in her 20 years of practice, said this week she has new evidence that will exonerate Avery.

"We are confident Mr. Avery’s conviction will be vacated when we present the new evidence and results of our work to the appropriate court,” she told The New York Times.

It's unclear what that evidence might be; Zellner could not immediately be reached for comment.

Avery is serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole in the Waupun Correctional Institution in Wisconsin. In his appeal, he asks to be released on bond.

His story was engaging enough for a documentary because he spent 18 years in prison for a rape he didn't commit, only to be convicted of committing a murder less than four years after his release.

Read Avery's motions:

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