The White House has issued an official response to a petition to free Steven Avery. Avery was convicted of the murder of Teresa Halbach in 2007 after being freed from prison where he served 18 years for a rape he did not commit. The Netflix series, Making A Murderer follows the Avery trial and has struck a chord with people all over the world. The documentary highlights the suspicious circumstances surrounding the investigation, evidence and conviction of Avery, leaving many with the strong opinion that Avery was set up by the local Sheriff's Department.
Online petitions began to circulate, gaining nearly 350,000 signatures and the White House has issued their decision. And unfortunately for Avery, there will be no Presidential pardon. In a statement Thursday night, the President's position was explained:
Thank you for signing a Change.org petition on the Teresa Halbach murder case, currently featured on the "Making a Murderer" documentary series. We appreciate your interest in this case.
To best respond to your petition, we should go over what exactly presidential pardoning power entails.
The U.S. Constitution grants the power of clemency to the President:
"The President ... shall have Power to Grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offenses against the United States."
This clemency authority empowers the President to exercise leniency towards persons who have committed federal crimes. Under the Constitution, only federal criminal convictions, such as those adjudicated in the United States District Courts, may be pardoned by the President. In addition, the President's pardon power extends to convictions adjudicated in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia and military court-martial proceedings. However, the President cannot pardon a state criminal offense.
Since Steven Avery and Brendan Dassey are both state prisoners, the President cannot pardon them. A pardon in this case would need to be issued at the state level by the appropriate authorities.
Where the President lacks the authority to grant Avery a pardon, Wisconsin governor, Scott Walker, has also made it abundantly clear that he will not be granting any pardons for Avery or his young nephew, Brendan Dassey.
We'll be sure to keep an eye on the story as it continues to unfold. Until then, did you watch Making A Murderer? What are your thoughts? Post a comment below and we can chat!