President Obama Can’t Issue Making A Murderer Pardon

Photo Courtesy of Netflix
Update: The White House has responded to petitions urging President Obama to issue pardons for Steven Avery and Brendan Dassey. Because the convictions were made in state court rather than in federal court, Obama is unable to intervene. "Since Steven Avery and Brendan Dassey are both state prisoners, the president cannot pardon them," an online statement reads. "A pardon in this case would need to be issued at the state level by the appropriate authorities. While this case is out of the Administration's purview, President Obama is committed to restoring the sense of fairness at the heart of our justice system."
This story was originally published on January 3. Fans of the new Netflix docu-series Making a Murderer are trying to take the law into their own hands by petitioning President Obama to free two men that they claim are innocent. Since the show premiered on December 18, two petitions have sprung up that ask the government to help free Steven Avery, a Wisconsin man who was wrongly convicted of a crime in 2003, serving 18 years until DNA evidence exonerated him, only to be arrested and later convicted for the murder of photographer Teresa Halbach in 2005. The 10-part series focuses on Avery's trial, questioning whether or not the local government was out to get the man who had filed a $36 million lawsuit against them. Avery was arrested days after members of the police department gave their depositions. Though Avery has always stood by his innocence, the trial was made even more complicated after his teenage nephew, Brendan Dassey, admitted to playing a part in Halbach's murder. The series does, however, question the validity of the then 16-year-old's confession. Avery is currently serving life in prison without the possibility of parole, while Dassey is serving life in prison with the possibility of parole after 40 years. But two petitions hope to fix that. A petition, now signed by more than 100,000 people, asks the president to free Avery. Meanwhile, a petition, signed by upwards of 18,000 people (according to Time), asks him to pardon both Avery and Dassey based on the evidence presented in Making a Murderer.

"The justice system embarrassingly failed both men, completely ruining their entire lives," reads the petition. "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." If the White House petition reaches its goal of 100,000 signatures by January 16, the White House will have to respond. The show, like the Serial podcast before it, has its fair share of devoted fans who have decided to pick up where it left off. It's something Making a Murderer's filmmakers, Moira Demos and Laura Ricciardi, didn't expect and, in an interview with The Daily Beast, actually warn against. “We always hoped that there would be viewer engagement, we just had no idea that people would become amateur sleuths,” Ricciardi said. “I guess it’s just the times we’re living in. But in terms of people zeroing in on particular individuals, we would just ask that people check themselves because part of the problem we saw — not only in the 1985 case, but I would argue as well in the 2005 case — was an incredible rush to judgment. And members of law enforcement are not the only people who can do that, and make that mistake." Of course, that hasn't stopped fans from going after who many would call the series' villain, former Calumet County District Attorney Ken Kratz. Some have even started flooding the Yelp page for Kratz's Wisonsin law firm with less-than-stellar reviews, like, "I hope Ken Kratz gets slapped in the face by the cold hand of reality in the form of an incurable deadly virus." Some of the comments have been so negative that Yelp is currently trying to clean up the page, encouraging people to share their feelings on Kratz via the Yelp talk page, a forum that allows users to talk about current events.

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