Sunday 19 February 2017

Why Obama’s hands are tied over ‘Making a Murderer’ petition

Sasha Brady

Published 08/01/2016 | 12:19

Despite widespread call for a presidential pardon for convicted killer Steven Avery, Barack Obama's hands are tied
Despite widespread call for a presidential pardon for convicted killer Steven Avery, Barack Obama's hands are tied

Despite widespread call for a presidential pardon for two US prisoners, Barack Obama's hands are tied.

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Nearly 354,000 people have signed a Change.org petition for convicted killer Steven Avery to receive a pardon from US president Barack Obama. Another petition on the White House's website has collected over 35,000 signatures.

Both call for Obama to grant a presidential pardon to Avery, who supporters believe was wrongfully convicted with the 2005 murder of photographer Teresa Halbach.

These petitions hope to correct that supposed injustice. If it reaches 100,000 signatures, the White House is required to respond to the petition posted on its website.

Brendan Dassey stands trial for the murder of Teresa Halbach
Brendan Dassey stands trial for the murder of Teresa Halbach

This petition also calls for the release of Avery's nephew, Brendan Dassey, who was also convicted for Halbach's death.

However, constitutional laws regarding presidential pardons will keep Obama from utilising the move for Avery. According to the United States Department of Justice, presidential pardons can only be used on federal convictions.

"Under the Constitution, only federal criminal convictions, such as those adjudicated in the United States District Courts, may be pardoned by the President ... the President cannot pardon a state criminal offense," the department's site reads.

"Under the Constitution, only federal criminal convictions, such as those adjudicated in the United States District Courts, may be pardoned by the President ... the President cannot pardon a state criminal offense," the department's site reads.

Appeals for state convictions are to be filed in local courts and petitioned to the state's governor.

"If you are seeking clemency for a state criminal conviction... you should contact the Governor or other appropriate authorities of the state where you reside or where the conviction occurred (such as the state board of pardons and paroles) to determine whether any relief is available to you under state law."

Avery was launched into unexpected fame after his trial was the subject of Netflix documentary Making A Murderer. Convicted of a 1985 sexual crime that he did not commit, the Wisconsin man was released from prison after serving 18 years of a 32-year sentence ,after DNA evidence pinned the crime on another man.

The case, the documentary alleges, was grossly mishandled by the Manitowac County officials. A year after he filed a US$36 million lawsuit against the county, officials arrested Avery again, this time for the murder of Teresa Holbach.

The documentary goes on to allege that this case, like the previous one, was also filled with corruption and that Avery was set up under increasing pressure felt by county officials.

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