Big developments are coming in case behind Netflix’s true crime documentary Making A Murderer. Last week we learned that Steven Avery’s post-conviction lawyer Kathleen Zellner and the State of Wisconsin had come to an agreement on what pieces of evidence from Avery’s trial could and could not be tested. Now we get to learn what exactly is on that list. While the actual Agreed Testing Order documents still haven’t made their way onto the internet due to Thanksgiving weekend, John Ferak of Post-Crescent / USA Today got his hands on it and here’s the nine pieces of evidence to be re-examined.
There are seven items of blood evidence pulled from murder victim Teresa Halbach’s Toyota RAV4, namely blood flakes under the central console, a blood stain on the driver’s seat, and a blood stain on the passenger seat. The flakes themselves and cuttings of the bloodstains will all go for testing. Then there are swabs of blood pulled from the RAV4 ignition area, the rear passenger’s door, and a CD case found in the front passenger seat. Last but not least, a swab used on the RAV4 hood latch that tested positive for Avery’s DNA will also be tested.
Outside of the vehicle, the controversial 1996 vial of Avery’s blood his trial lawyers claimed was used to plant his DNA in the RAV4 will also be subject to a battery of tests. Finally, the spare key and lanyard for the vehicle found by Manitowoc County Sheriff’s deputies James Lenk and Andrew Colborn in Avery’s home will also be re-examined.
While Kathleen Zellner told USA Today “It’s encouraging that the Attorney General’s Office was so cooperative and helpful in expediting these tests,” it’s worth noting that the state refused to allow testing for many of the items included in her motion for scientific testing. That includes things in the RAV4 that were never tested at all like the hood prop bar, interior hood release latch, severed battery cable, a broken blinker light, and a lug wrench found inside the trunk. Zellner also wanted to try and pull DNA from fingerprints on the RAV4 using a new technique not available in 2007.
Other pieces of evidence not being re-tested: the pelvic bone used to identify charred material on Avery’s property as Teresa Halbach’s remains, the RAV4 license plate and a pair of purple thong underwear recovered from the Avery salvage yard, and the bullet fragments found in Steven Avery’s garage. So it seems like his legal team was limited largely to blood samples and the three pieces of evidence most likely to have been tampered with – the hood latch, the RAV4 key, and the blood vial.
Zellner plans to subject all the evidence to a battery of new testing that didn’t exist when Avery was convicted in 2007. Radiocarbon 14c testing will determine the exact age of all blood evidence and can also detect the potential presence of EDTA. Body fluid source testing will determine what kind of DNA was recovered – for example, if Avery DNA pulled from the RAV4 hood latch is skin DNA from his hands, or saliva DNA from bucchal swabs taken by Manitowoc law enforcement.
Now that the ruling is done with and testing can begin, things could begin to speed up in the case. It took just over three months from the court approving Zellner’s motion for scientific testing to this point where the testing can actually begin. And while Zellner said it could take months for that testing to be completed, the limited scope of items she’s allowed to test could mean a much faster turnaround with results. Based on past behavior from Zellner, we wouldn’t be surprised if she tweeted about any shocking discoveries rather than saving them for her official appeal.
Zellner isn’t going into this testing blindly, just hoping something turns up. She told ABC News that her investigation “points to one person. And that’s a person that I think was right there the whole time but never investigated. Because Mr. Avery was framed on this case right away.” This evidence testing is just the latest step towards her goal of exonerating Steven Avery. Considering Zellner has exonerated all 17 of her previous wrongful conviction clients, there’s good reason to expect some pretty big results from all this.