If you’re one of the people who think Steven Avery and Brendan Dassey are innocent, the Netflix documentary series Making a Murderer ended on a down note, with both of them serving life sentences for the murder of Teresa Halbach. But wrongful convictions lawyer Kathleen Zellner has been working hard to add a new chapter to this story, and she recently shed some light on her appeal of Steven Avery’s case.
“We have to have new evidence that could not have been obtained before that would result in no juror believing that Steven Avery committed the crime,” Zellner told Newsweek during an in-depth interview. “So that’s the standard. It’s kind of a high hurdle to jump, but we can jump it with the new technology. With someone who’s innocent, you can definitely jump that hurdle.”
Some of the new evidence she plans to present: that Halbach’s cellphone records imply she left the Avery Salvage Yard alive. While the original 2005 case focused closely on phone calls made to and from Teresa’s cell, Zellner says Avery’s lawyers Dean Strang and Jerry Buting completely ignored records of her phone pinging cell towers miles away from Steven Avery’s home.
“It’s absolutely shocking to see cellphone records that were part of the discovery that were turned over to the defense … document her route leaving the property,” Zellner said. “She goes back the same way she came, she’s 12 miles from the property on the last ping. They screwed it up.”
“It’s really hard to figure out how in the world did the defense not seize on this. It would have created reasonable doubt.”
It’s worth noting that the kind of cell phone tower triangulation Zellner is citing has only recently been considered conclusive enough to use as evidence, and even then experts have varying opinions on its reliability. But as usual, Kathleen Zellner isn’t interested in waiting for a judge to decide if evidence is admissible — she’s throwing it out to the court of public opinion.
Having evidence of Halbach — or even just her phone — 12 miles away from the Avery salvage yard raises serious questions about the timeline of her murder created by the prosecution in Steven Avery’s case. There was already a very small window of time for Avery to kill Halbach, and the accepted version of the story that convicted him had everything happening on his property.
As for her criticism of lawyers Strang and Buting, Strang doesn’t take it personally.
“That she is criticizing some aspects of the work I did at trial means that she is doing her job,” Strang told Newsweek.
And what a job it is. Steven Avery’s appeal should be heard by the Manitowoc County court in the next few months. We’ll fill you in on any updates as they happen.