Steven Avery: Who is the man at centre of Netflix documentary 'Making a Murderer'?

Avery was acquitted of a sex offence after 18 years in prison in 2003

Olivia Blair
Friday 01 January 2016 18:00

Making a Murderer, the Netflix-produced documentary series investigating a real-life murder conviction, is the latest true crime investigation to grip audiences.

The series chronicles Steven Avery, a convicted murderer currently serving a life sentence for the murder of Teresa Halbach. He previously served 18 years in prison for sexual assault, which DNA evidence later cleared him of.

The programme, which has largely been compared to the groundbreaking podcast Serial investigates the investigation, so to speak, and raises questions about the validity of the conviction.

The debate grew even bigger recently when the online activist movement Anonymous claimed to have evidence that proves Avery’s innocence.

But what do we know about Steven Avery, the subject of the series?

Avery was born in July, 1962 in Manitowoc County, Wisconsin. According to the trailer for Making a Murderer, the Avery family “didn’t fit into the community” as they were particularly poor, had received poor education (Avery is described in the documentary as “barely functioning” and having an IQ of 70) and dressed differently to everyone else.

Avery has been described as a “happy” guy who “just wanted to make other people laugh”.

When Avery, 53, was younger he got in trouble with the law. Two burglaries are referred to in the documentary, one of which he was convicted for, aged 18 and was sentenced to 10 months in prison.

Aged 20, he was involved in a particularly distressing crime where he and another man doused the family cat with gasoline and oil and “tossed it into a bonfire at the Avery junkyard”. He served time in prison for the charge of animal cruelty.

Speaking about the earlier crimes in Making a Murderer he said: “I was young and stupid and hanging around with the wrong people.”

Aged 19 he met his wife Lori who he married in 1982, they had five children together but split up in 1988.

Avery, a ‘blue-collar’ worker who worked with cars says in the series: “I had a good life until all the trouble started.”

In 1985, Avery was convicted of sexually assaulting a woman, Penny Beerntsten, for which he received 32 years imprisonment.

However in 2003, 18 years later, the conviction was overturned as DNA evidence proved he didn’t commit the crime.

Avery then enjoyed two years as a free man, in which he began to file a $36million lawsuit against Manitowoc County for his wrongful conviction.

A bill was passed, named the ‘Avery Bill’ which was reportedly introduced by the Wisconsin Assembly Judiciary Committee which recommended improvements to the state’s criminal justice system and avoiding wrongful convictions, the name of the bill has since been changed.

However in 2007, he was convicted by a jury of first-degree intentional homicide and being a felon in charge of a firearm for the murder of photographer Teresa Halbach, 25.

Avery is currently serving a life sentence, without the possibility of parole, at the Waupun Correctional Institution in Wisconsin for the crime.

During the trial, his lawyers argued that the county police officers framed Avery for the murder to avoid the impending lawsuit.

Avery’s nephew was also convicted of the crime in separate trials.

The series is available on Netflix and the first episode available on Youtube.

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