Conflict Of Interest? One Of Steven Avery’s Jurors Was A Manitowoc County Sheriff’s Volunteer

01.07.16 11 months ago 9 Comments
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The Internet (and people in general) have been rightly obsessed with the Steven Avery/Brendan Dassey case from Making A Murderer, partly because it seems like a great injustice, and partly because it doesn’t quite make sense on any level. Either Avery was framed with the complicity of an unimaginably corrupt Sheriff’s Department, or a guy who doesn’t own underwear was capable of one of the all-time great crime scene scrub jobs.

Bolstering the frame-job theory is a new report from OnMilwaukee.com showing that an active, voting member of the jury in Steven Avery’s trial was also volunteering at the Manitowoc County Sheriff’s department at the time of the trial. That’s important, because the Manitowoc County Sheriffs being involved in the case at all was thought to be enough of a conflict of interest (on account of Avery’s then-ongoing lawsuit against them for his prior wrongful rape conviction) to warrant appointing a special prosecutor, and having neighboring Calumet County handle the case. Amazingly, this hands-off approach didn’t extend to keeping a volunteer Sheriff off the jury.

Carl Wardman was an official and very active volunteer for the Manitowoc County Sheriff’s Department at the same time he was serving as a juror on the Steven Avery murder trial, Sheriff Robert Hermann confirmed to OnMilwaukee on Wednesday. […]

Hermann – and court transcripts – also confirmed that Carl Wardman’s son, Chris Wardman, worked as a Manitowoc County Sheriff’s Department supervisor in the jail during the trial. He was a sergeant for the department at the time his father served on the Avery jury. […]

Asked whether he actually had a squad car that he drove around as a safety volunteer, he said, “Yeah. It says ‘volunteer’ on the side.”

You might rightly wonder why the defense didn’t move to strike this juror, and here is where the irony gets painful. Apparently, the defense may have thought that Wardman would be better capable than most of understanding how corrupt the Manitowoc County Sheriff’s Department could be, not despite his close relationship with them, but because of it.

…during questioning, Wardman, who used to work in a foundry, said that he had been arrested once for OWI [same as a DUI -Ed.] 10 years ago, during which an officer from another agency took $3 cash he had and then lied under oath about Wardman “robbing” him, suggesting Wardman might be open to a framing defense despite his ongoing ties to the Manitowoc Sheriff’s Department. […]

Asked if he thought officers could plant evidence or alter evidence, he said in jury selection “depends if they didn’t like him.”

He also said he had “no opinion” about Avery’s guilt or innocence and that he believed he could give Avery a fair shake.

“I ain’t really got no view,” he said.

He also said he believed that police officers are capable of lying under oath, and that he had not talked to his son about the Avery case. “No,” he said. “But he had to take training or something for some kind of gizmo they’ve used. Other than that, no.” He said he was referring to a stun belt, according to the court transcripts obtained by OnMilwaukee.

“Do you think that, um – do you think the police officers would come into court and lie?” Wardman was asked during jury selection. “Yeah,” he said. “Because they can get away with it. Some judges believe them.” Juries, too, he agreed. [OnMilwaukee.com]

Jesus. “Gizmo training,” “I ain’t got no view,” a three-dollar theft… does anyone else get the sense that Wisconsin is Lord of the Flies? Can’t we parachute in some adults to clear this up before they kill Piggy?

Meanwhile, over at The Daily Beast, defense lawyer Dean Strang, in an interview with Jen Yamato, explains that while the defense team did have some reservations about putting Wardman on the jury, they had fewer about him than about the other six candidates they had already rejected. Which had exhausted their veto power.

[Strang] confirmed that he and Buting had concerns about the juror revealed to be the father of a Manitowoc County sheriff’s deputy—but not as much as they had over the six potential jurors they struck during jury selection, exhausting their maximum strikes. “You don’t pick a jury. All you can do is unpick the people you think are least fit to serve on the jury,” he explained. “But the concerns about six other potential jurors were greater.” [Daily Beast]

And this is, of course, in addition to filmmakers Laura Ricciardi and Moira Demos’ recent revelation of a different juror who believed Avery was framed and allegedly voted to convict out of fear for their safety.

As to who may have actually killed Teresa Halbach…

Strang declined to identify the four unnamed possible suspects he and Buting proposed in their motion, or confirm that they were the quartet Avery later named in a 2009 appeal filing pointing to Dassey’s brother Bobby, stepfather Scott Tadych, and Avery’s own brothers, Charles and Earl. [DailyBeast]

There’s really no single aspect of this entire case that isn’t hopelessly convoluted and f*cked up. I imagine Occam would’ve taken one look at the facts of this case and used the razor to slit his own wrists.

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