Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to reflect the new total number of people who have signed the two petitions
Fans of the Netflix series Making a Murderer have created two online petitions calling for the pardon of its subjects, Steven Avery and Brendan Dassey, who were convicted in the 2005 murder of a 25-year-old woman in Manitowoc, Wisconsin.
More than 250,000 people signed a Change.org petition and more than 60,000 have signed a White House petition asking for a presidential pardon for Avery and his 16-year-old nephew Brendan Dassey. If the White House petition receives 100,000 signatures by January 16, then the government has to respond publicly.
“This is a black mark on the justice system as a whole, and should be recognized as such, while also giving these men the ability to live as normal a life as possible,” says the White House petition.
Making a Murderer is a 10-part documentary series that follows the case of 53-year-old Wisconsin native Steven Avery. He is serving a life sentence for the 2005 rape and murder of 25-year-old photographer Teresa Halbach.
The series follows the case of Avery, who had previously been jailed for 18 years for a sexual assault in 1985. DNA evidence exonerated him of that conviction in 2003.
Two years later, Avery brought a $36 million lawsuit against Manitowoc County, Wisconsin for the wrongful conviction.
The series calls into question the investigation and trial that put Avery and his nephew behind bars.
The Change.org petition was created by a Colorado resident Michael Seyedian Arvada who said he was “outraged” after viewing the documentary.
“Avery’s unconstitutional mistreatment at the hands of corrupt local law enforcement officers is completely unacceptable and is an abomination of due process,” Arvada writes on the petition website.
“Steven Avery should be exonerated at once by presidential pardon, and the Manitowoc County officials complicit in his two false imprisonments should be held accountable to the highest extent of the U.S. criminal justice system.”
Meanwhile, Manitowoc County Sheriff Robert Hermann says he has fielded hundreds of angry calls and emails from around the world since the documentary was released.
“It’s basically hate mail,” Hermann old the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, adding that while he hasn’t seen the documentary he’s convinced it’s likely very one-sided.
The special prosecutor in Avery’s murder trial, Ken Kratz, said he’s been threatened and insulted as a result of the series.
“Suggestions that I shouldn’t even be walking around was offered, the good cheer that I happen to develop stomach cancer for Christmas and really lots of really troubling pieces of correspondence,” Kratz told WBAY-TV. He added that be believed the documentary left out “80 to 90 per cent of the physical evidence, the forensic evidence” that tied Avery to the murder.
Kratz resigned as District Attorney in 2010 after sending sexually suggestive text messages to a domestic abuse victim.
Avery was sentenced to life in prison without parole. Dassey was also given a life sentence but has a chance for early release in 2048.