Posts tagged ‘Murder’

11/13/2019

Avery Probably Murdered Halbach

Like many Netflix viewers, upon watching the series: The Making of a Murderer, I was left with many lingering doubts about the guilt of Steven Avery with respect to the disappearance of Teresa Halbach. Recently, however, a friend asked me to read Indefensible, by Michael Griesbach, which advances a contrasting viewpoint, and after I read it, I’m now convinced that Avery in fact murdered Theresa Halbach.

As a retired lawyer, I treated Griesbach’s book somewhat like a trial transcript. As I read through it, I put myself in the position of a Court of Appeals judge and asked myself whether I would affirm or reverse Avery’s conviction. From the book, I logged every relevant fact, put them in chronological order, and proceeded to write my own opinion. The source of everything I have written in this article is from Griesbach’s book.

PRIOR BAD ACTS & CHARACTER

Griesbach correctly noted that juries are not allowed to hear unrelated or unproven prior “bad acts” committed by a defendant. However, since Avery had several in his background, they were mentioned in the book to give us a more complete picture. From them, I learned Avery’s character was not as pure as depicted in the Netflix documentary.

When he was 20 in 1981, Avery tortured a cat by throwing it into a fire after he had first poured gasoline all over it. While that act of cruelty doesn’t prove he committed a murder some 24 years later, such behavior does indicate a serious behavioral problem. Another prior bad act was raised by a 42-year-old woman named Harris, who said Avery fondled and forcibly had sex with her when she was 18 in 1982. Since that incident was not reduced to a conviction, it was of course not mentioned during the murder trial.

After Avery was released from prison in 2003 (for a crime he did not commit), he lived with Jodi Stachowski for roughly 18 months. She said they had sex sometimes as much as five times a day. She recalled that they experimented with bondage and said there were times she was tied down to the bed. Just a few weeks after their relationship began, Jodi was already calling the cops to report that he pushed her into a chair, strangled her until she lost consciousness, and threatened to shoot her. She said he also ripped the phone out of the wall to keep her from calling. Instead of pursuing criminal charges, Jodi asked the police to just give him a non-criminal disorderly conduct ticket. Jodi later said she was abused by Avery on three or four other occasions. After Jodi and her daughter locked themselves in a bathroom one time, the child was sent to live with her grandmother. Later, on the Nancy Grace show, Jodi called Avery a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. She said he thought all bitches owed him, because of the one who sent him to prison.

In 2003, upon Avery’s release from prison at age 42, he also found the time to rape his 17-year-old niece on her cousin’s bunk bed. The niece didn’t have her uncle prosecuted, because he threatened her. As a consequence, that “bad act” did not result in a criminal conviction. In another incident the day before Halbach disappeared in 2005, Avery asked his nephew’s teenage ex-girlfriend Melissa to come to his trailer, so they “could have a little fun” by letting “the bed hit the wall real hard.”

Ex-con Ron Rieckhoff shared what he knew about Avery’s character on March 9, 2006. He said Avery hated all women and he said that when he was released he wanted to kill the bitch that set him up on the rape charge.

PRIOR CONVICTIONS

In addition to Avery’s sexually-related “bad acts,” he had two burglary convictions on his record. He also had two felony convictions arising out of an incident with Sandra Morris, the wife of a Manitowoc County Deputy Sheriff. The felonies were “Endangering Safety by Conduct Regardless of Life” and “Possession of a Firearm by a Felon.” Morris was Avery’s second cousin, who lived up the road with her husband Bill, a deputy sheriff. Beginning in 1984, as Morris would drive by, Avery began exposing himself to her. At least once, he stood outside and masturbated. The final incident regarding Morris arose on Jan. 3, 1985, as she drove by his house. Avery rammed his Ford Ltd into Morris’ Plymouth and ran her off the road. He then used his rifle to hold her at gun point, while he ordered her to get into his vehicle. Because she had a baby with her, he finally let her go, and he was soon arrested. He confessed to endangering safety and possession of a firearm by a felon and he was sentenced to six years for each count, as a habitual offender. Since the sentences were to run concurrently, he got a six-year prison term.

Before Avery went off to prison on the Morris conviction, another crime occurred in Manitowoc County as Penny Beerntsen was sexually assault on the Lake Michigan beach on July 28, 1985. While jogging, she was grabbed, dragged into the woods, and beaten. She was left for dead after an attempted rape. Deputy Judy Dvorak, a friend of Sandra Morris, interviewed the victim at the hospital and jumped to the conclusion that it must have been Avery. Sheriff Tom Kocourek also leapt to the same conclusion. Although Penny;s description of the assailant didn’t match Avery, he was brought into custody, where the deputies had Penny ID him. At that point, there was no turning back.

Although Avery was not exactly a good guy, they had arrested the wrong man as to Penny. The real perpetrator was Gregory Allen. Allen had previously been charged with lunging at a woman along the same Lake Michigan beach in 1983. He was then prosecuted by Manitowoc County Dist. Atty. Dennis Vogel. When Penny was attacked on the same Lake Michigan beach in 1985, just two years later, many in the District Attorney’s Office correctly assumed Allen did it. Even though Vogel knew of Allen’s record, as he had placed a copy of Allen’s 1983 complaint in the 1985 file, he nonetheless followed the Sheriff’s lead and prosecuted Avery instead. Vogel would later say he thought Allen was in Door County at the time and that he would have an alibi. After Avery was convicted of the sexual assault in 1985, Judge Hazelwood sentenced him to a very long prison term. Avery would first serve the six years for the Morris conviction and then he would begin serving time for Penny’s assault.

After Avery completed his six year imprisonment for Morris in 1991, he remained in prison to commence his lengthy incarceration for Penny. About a year later, in 1992, Officer Jim Colborn began working as a corrections officer at the Manitowoc County Jail. Three years after that, in 1995, Penny’s real assailant, Greg Allen, committed another sexual assault in Green Bay and he received a 60-year sentence. Once he was behind bars, he confessed to the assault on Penny in Manitowoc back in 1985. A Green Bay detective then called Colborn at the Manitowoc Jail in 1995 and told him that Allen confessed to the crime Avery had been convicted of 10 years earlier. Colborn said he passed the information on to higher-ups, but nothing was done to free Avery. The next year Colborn took a job as a Manitowoc County Deputy Sheriff. Meanwhile, Avery continued serving that long prison term for a crime he did not commit.

AVERY’S EXONERATION & CIVIL SUIT

Asst. Dist. Atty. Griesbach received a call from Sherry Culhane of the State Crime Lab on Sep. 5, 2003, during which she informed him that DNA from the 1985 incident matched sex offender Greg Allen, and not Steve Avery. This was eight years after Manitowoc had actual knowledge of Allen’s confession. Although Avery was properly in prison for the Morris offense from 1985 through 1991, the 12 years he had served since 1991 as to Penny’s constituted a wrongful imprisonment. Upon learning of the DNA, Griesbach pulled Avery’s 1985 file and found a copy of Allen’s 1983 sexual assault complaint inside of it. DA Vogel apparently considered prosecuting Allen instead of Avery in 1985. The DNA findings prompted Avery’s release from prison on Sept. 11, 2003. Avery would sue for 12 of the 18 years he spent behind bars. His public defender however warned him to be careful in Manitowoc County, as she felt the police and prosecutors would continue keeping an eye on him. Instead of leaving town, Avery filed a 35 million dollar lawsuit against the former sheriff, former DA and the County. Avery’s civil case was still pending the day Teresa Halbach disappeared in 2005. Deputies Colborn and Lenk gave their deposition testimony in 2005, just a few days before Teresa Halbach disappeared.

AVERY’S FIRST MEETING WITH HALBACH

“Auto Trader” was a business that employed photographers to take snapshots of cars for advertisements. Avery’s Salvage Yard used the services of Auto Trader from time to time. When Allison Lang took photos at the salvage yard in Jan. 2005, Avery asked her to enter his trailer, but she decided he was too creepy and she wisely remained in her car.

Teresa Halbach took over for Lang as the photographer for Auto Trader in the spring of 2005. Before Oct, 10, 2005, Avery contacted Teresa directly to set up a photo shoot. The day before, Avery purchased leg irons, which were later found in his trailer. After Teresa took photos for Avery on the 10th, she shared with her receptionist the sexual nature of the encounter. Teresa said Avery came out of his trailer wearing only a towel. After his provocative behavior, Avery knew Halbach would not likely come back for any additional work, but Avery wanted to see her again, so he devised a diabolical plan

AVERY’S 2ND APPOINTMENT WITH HALBACH

Avery cleverly arranged a second appointment by using the name of his sister Barb Janda, who lived right next to him in the Salvage Yard. He would use her van, which wasn’t even for sale. While talking to the receptionist to schedule the appointment, Avery used a muted female voice to say he was “B Janda.” He gave Barb’s telephone number and requested “that photographer who had been out here before.” Halbach assumed she would be meeting B Janda that day. She did not know Avery would be lying in wait for her. There appears to be no doubt Avery lured Teresa to the property to at least rape her.

HALBACH’S DISAPPEARANCE

On the day she disappeared, Halbach first visited the Zipperer residence at 2:15 p.m. on Oct. 31, 2005. Shortly afterward, Avery called her cell phone using the #67 function at 2:25 p.m. and again at 2:35 p.m. Since the #67 function disguises the caller ID, Halbach didn’t take either call. But Halbach did call her receptionist at Auto Trader at 2:27 p.m.to tell them she was on her way to Avery’s Salvage. Halbach arrived at the property at 2:45 p.m. on Oct. 31, 2005. Everyone agreed she drove her RAV4 to Avery’s on Halloween.

Bobby Dassey, who was Brendan Dasseu’s older brother, told the police that he saw Halbach drive up from his window. He said he watched a girl walk towards Avery’s trailer at 2:45 p.m. on Oct. 31, 2005. This also happened to be Halloween.

Since Halbach is deceased and Avery remained silent, neither of them can be a source for what happened next. But Brendan Dassey did enter the story at that time and though his statements raise as many questions, they do fill in the picture.

BRENDEN DASSEY’S MURDER CONFESSION

Brenden Dassey was just a 16 at the time. Avery was his uncle. They lived next door to each other in the Salvage Yard. In Jan. 2006, about two months after the homicide, 14-year-old Kayla, one of Brenden’s cousins, approached her school counselor, because she was concerned about some things Brenden was saying. She said Brenden was very depressed. She noted Brenden lost 40 pounds and that he would just sit there, stare into space, and then cry. Kayla, who was afraid of her uncle Steve, relayed some of the things Brenden said about Halloween night. He told her he saw Halbach pinned down in Avery’s trailer. He said they burned some things that Halloween and that he saw body parts in the fire. The counselor went to the police with the information.

Dassey actually gave the police four statements. His first was in Nov, 2005. Two more were on Feb. 27, 2006. He then gave a 4-hour videotaped confession on March 1, 2006. He was questioned by detectives Wiegert and Fassbender. Dassey was a reluctant witness whose story changed often. The detectives asked this intellectually slow 16-year-old a number of leading questions. Legal issues arose as to whether the interview was truly “voluntary.” Judge Fox ruled the confession was in fact voluntarily given.

Dassey said that as he approached his uncle’s trailer on Oct. 31, 2005, he heard a woman screaming “help me.” As he reached Steve’s trailer, Avery opened the door, partially dressed, and invited him inside. Brenden saw Teresa tied naked to the bed in cuffs and leg irons. She started begging him to help. Avery admitted he had sex with Halbach and invited Dassey to join him. (probably as a means of insuring he would remain silent) Brenden foolishly got on top of her and also raped her. As a 16-year-old, he told the detectives he wanted to know how it felt. Avery then talked about killing Halbach. Dassey said Avery stabbed her in the stomach (this is doubtful since no blood or other evidence of such an assault was found on the mattress or in the bedroom) Avery gave Dassey the knife and told him to cut her throat (Avery would again be creating another murder defendant to keep him quiet) Brenden said he cut her throat, but she did not die (this is also unlikely since there was no blood on the mattress or in the bedroom–why didn’t she die if her throat was cut) Brenden said Avery made him cut her throat. Dassey said Avery then strangled her. (this makes no sense if her throat was already cut) Dassey said Avery punched her. (this could be true, but perhaps earlier when she was being taken into the trailer) The boy said they then removed the shackles and tied her. (why tie her after she is dead?) They then took her to the garage where Avery shot her in the head ten times with a rifle, (shooting her 10xs is overkill and it makes no sense)

(What probably happened is Avery captured Halbach usng a knife. When she struggled to get away, he cut himself and he punched her. He took her inside the trailer, stripped her naked, and shackled her to the bed. After he raped her, Brenden arrived, and he raped her too. This was before he realized his uncle would have to kill her to keep her from talking) They didn’t spill any blood in the bedroom. They tied her up alive and took her into the garage. This is probably where they first stabbed her in the stomach and tried to cut her threat, but then realized they didn’t have the nerve to murder a struggling person that way, so Avery switched to a rifle and he shot her twice in the head.)

AFTER THE MURDER

After the murder, the defendants needed to do several things: 1) destroy the body; 2) hide the car (or destroy it); 3) clean the blood from the car (if they didn’t destroy it); 4) gather the shell casings and bullet fragments; 5) clean the blood from the garage floor; 6) clean the weapon (or destroy it): 7) remove all fingerprints, hair samples and DNA from the bedroom; 8) wash their cloths and shower up; 9) create cell phone alibis; and 10) act like they never met the victim that day. Avery and Dassey would have from Oct 31 to Nov 5 to do these things, before the police would arrive with a search warrant. Allan Avery, Steve’s dad, said after the warrant, they were kicked out of their houses for eight days.

BURNING THE BODY IN THE FIRE

Dassey said they burned her body by throwing it onto a fire pit 20 yards from Avery’s bedroom. Halbach’s charred remains were found in the fire pit behind his garage. DNA showed bone fragments in fire pit belonged to Halbach. They found almost every bone below her neck there. They found a tibia, some pieces of skull, and teeth fragments. They also found metal rivets that matched the blue jeans she was wearing.

To spread the blame, Avery made sure some body parts were destroyed in burn barrel #2, 100 feet behind Dassey’s trailer. Four types of bone fragments were found in that burn barrel. A skull section found there showed she was shot twice in the head. From those remains, they were able to ID a human female, not older than 35.

In Dassey’s Feb, 27 statement, he said he saw Halbach’s body parts in the bonfire, most notably her toes. (he was apparently haunted by that image) As he gazed into the fire, he also saw hands, a belly and a forehead, all images that apparently troubled him deeply. As to all of this, his uncle told him to keep his mouth shut as Avery threatened to stab him if he said anything.

There were many witnesses to the large bonfire on Halloween. Barb Janda, Brenden’s mom, came home at around 5 p.m. and noticed a fire about three feet high. Fabian saw smoke coming from a burn barrel. Blaine Dassey saw a huge bonfire after he returned from trick or treating.

Dassey said a few days later, Avery broke up the bones and buried some of them a few feet from the fire. Some of the other remains were moved to a quarry pit on a steep hill known as Randandts. The police found a third burn site in the nearby quarry.

HIDING THE VEHICLE

Dassey said Avery drove the RAV4 to the edge of the salvage yard and hid it from view. After the plates were removed, why didn’t Avery immediately take steps between Oct 31 and Nov 5 to drain the fluids, remove the VIN number, and destroy the vehicle in his car crusher, located on the premises? Was he so stupid that he thought he could sell it?

Deputy Colborn made a controversial call on Nov. 3, when he asked dispatch to run license plate SWH582. This was two days before the vehicle was actually found. The dialog was: “Can you run Sam William Henry five eight two?” Dispatch replied: “Shows that she’s a missing person and it lists to Teresa Halbach.” The conversation makes it sound like Colborn was reading off the license plate. It did not sound like he was asking dispatch to verify a license number he already had, so he could begin searching for it.

At any rate, Pam Sturm and her daughter found the RAV4 at the edge of the junkyard near the woods on Nov. 5, 2005. If anyone but Avery or Dassey had driven it to that location, it would have been difficult to go sight unseen past all the Avery trailers.

CLEANING THE BLOOD FROM THE VEHICLE

Six spots of blood were found in the car. They were near the ignition switch, on the dash, on the CD case, and in the rear passenger area. The state argued they matched Avery’s DNA. Dassey’s comment that Avery stabbed Teresa while she was in the RAV4 doesn’t make much sense. If he stabbed her in the stomach or cut her throat inside the car, there would have more blood inside the vehicle than they could possibly have cleaned. It’s more likely the blood found on the hood and in the car came from Avery’s cut finger.

Also, why did Dassey say they placed Teresa’s body in the RAV4? That doesn’t make a any sense either. If she was murdered in the garage, and burned in the pit right behind Avery’s trailer, why would they need to put her in the car after she was bloodied?

The Netflix documentary suggested the blood in car was planted from a vial that had been filled when Avery was booked in 1985. They pointed out the Sheriff’s Dept. had access to clerk’s office, where the vial was stored. The fact that the evidence tape on the 1985 file was broken was insignificant, since the Wis. Innocence Project had done that to do some additional DNA testing. The documentary pointed out that the hole on rubber stopper at top of the vial appeared to be punctured by a syringe, but again that was not shocking since that’s how blood is put in these vials in the first place. They stick a syringe through the top to insert the blood. Also dried blood between the stopper and vial is not unusual. Not even Avery’s attorneys argued these points at trial.

Judge Willis allowed the defense to make a blood planting argument regarding the bloodvial. EDTA is like an anticoagulant added to blood vials so they don’t degrade. While blood in a vial should contain EDTA, blood found in the car, allegedly from Avery’s finger, should not. The state’s FBI expert said he did not find any EDTA on the blood samples in the car. The defense expert said the fact that EDTA was not detected doesn’t mean it wasn’t present, because when you swab the stain, you dilute it, and the detection level isn’t low enough to read it.

GATHERING SHELL CASINGS & FRAGMENTS

As to the number of times Halbach was shot, Dassey’s confession was unreliable, because at one point he said Avery fired 5 to 10 times and at another he said she was shot just twice. There is a big difference between two and ten. Dassey’s admission that she was shot “outside” or more precisely “in the garage” with a .22 caliber weapon was more credible. Avery certainly would not have wanted to leave a bloody mess on his mattress or in the bedroom. It also makes sense that no shell casings were found on the floor in the garage during the initial inspection by four officers on Nov. 6, 2005. Avery certainly would have picked up any loose visible shell casings. If Halbach was shot 10xs, there is the possibility that some didn’t exit her body. A .22 caliber bullet does not have the energy to exit a skull bone. If it passes through soft tissue, it may carry DNA.

Once Dassey confessed, four months after the killing, the police returned to the garage with specifics. This is when they found the bullet fragments. One was lodged inside a crack in the concrete and another was underneath an air compressor. They determined the air compressor bullet was fired from Avery’s gun and that it had Teresa’s DNA on it.

CLEANING THE GARAGE FLOOR

Dassey said he and Avery used Halbach’s clothing to wipe up the blood in the garage and then burned them. They used bleach to try to wipe clean any traces of blood.

On the day of the murder, Avery’s girlfriend Jodi was in jail. All calls to and from the jail are recorded. Avery telephoned Jodi at 8:57 p.m. on Oct 31, 2005. During that conversation, he said he and Dassey had done some cleaning that day. Brenden’s mother Barb gave a statement in which she said her son said he and Avery cleaned the garage.

After the police arrived on Nov. 8, 2005, they did some luminal testing in the garage, but reached no conclusions. This was before they knew the shooting occurred there. After Dassey’s March 2006 confession, in which he said she was shot in the garage, the judge issued a new warrant to search it. During that inspection, they noted a bluish white glow in some areas, which matched the body location sketched by Dassey. The luminal test done that evening showed a glow consistent with Dassey’s diagram.

CLEANING THE WEAPON

What about the murder weapon? If Avery used his rifle to kill Halbach, why didn’t he throw it into a lake or bury it? Was he that stupid? During the initial search, upon finding that Avery had a Marlin rifle in his trailer, he was arrested on Nov. 9, 2005 for being a felon in possession of a firearm.

As to the murder, Sherry Culhane of the crime lab didn’t find any of Avery’s DNA on rifle trigger. Nor did she find any blood on rifle barrel. Had Avery simply done an excellent job of cleaning?

CLEANING THE BEDROOM

Avery clearly cleaned and rearranged his bedroom. His girlfriend Jodi was shown a depiction of how the bedroom was laid out when the police searched it. She said it was not previously laid out that way. She said Avery moved the bedroom furniture around. Jodi would have put the bed in the same place Dassey had it on his sketch.

But not a single drop of Teresa’s blood, or strand of her hair, was found in the bedroom when the police conducted their searches. Again, this points to the probability that Halbach was not stabbed in the stomach there or cut along the throat in the bedroom, and that Dassey’s statement in that regard was unreliable.

KEY IN THE BEDROOM

Why would Avery hide the key to RAV4 in his bedroom? This would have been the absolute dumbest and most incriminating location of all. Was Avery that stupid? During the initial police searches of the bedroom, they found no key anywhere, and certainly not out on the floor in plain sight. How could it possibly have been missed?

The key was found there on Nov. 8, 2005 while Manitowoc County Deputies Colborn and Lenk were in the bedroom. Since Manitowoc County was being sued by Avery, and the criminal case was being handled by another County due to a conflict of interest, why were the Manitowoc officers there? It was Manitowoc County Deputy Lenk who pointed to the floor and exclaimed: “There’s a key here.”

The deputies explained that the key wasn’t seen earlier, because it apparently was tucked into the back of a bookcase. Officer Kucharski explained “We believe it either fell out of the cabinet, or from some place hidden inside the cabinet, or underneath the cabinet, or in back of the cabinet.”  How could it fall from “inside” the cabinet? How could it fall “out of” the cabinet? But the testing of the key showed bloodstains on it that matched Avery’s DNA. If the key was planted, wouldn’t the police officer’s DNA be on it?

SHOWERING UP

Earl Avery and his brother-in-law Robert Fabian arrived on Oct. 31, 2005 between 4:30 and 5:00 p.m. They noticed Avery had just showered. That was an unusual time for him to have showered up. It is however consistent with cleaning up everything including his own body. Avery apparently missed a shirt during his clean-up, as the state found some hair on one shirt that was consistent with the hair of the victim.

CREATING DIVERSIONARY PHONE CALL

In an apparent attempt to create diversionary evidence, Avery called Halbach’s cell at 4:35 p.m. on Oct 31, 2005. Phone records however showed that no cell site was communicating with her phone at that time. The inference is that her phone was already destroyed in the fire and that Avery was simply making it appear that he was wondering where she was. The problem with that story is he had arranged for Halbach to meet “B Janda” and not himself. So the call to her phone at that time made no sense at all.

CONTRADICTIONS ABOUT SEEING HER

Avery told some people Halbach never showed up. Fabian overheard Avery say the photographer did not arrive. Avery told Chuck and Earl the photographer didn’t show. Avery called Auto Trader on Nov 3 and told them their photographer never made it to the scheduled appointment. However, in an interview with Deputy Colborn on Nov 3, Avery said he saw Halbach through his window taking pictures on Oct 31, but he denied talking to her that day. In an interview with Deputy Lenk on Nov 4, Avery contradicted himself again as he said he engaged in small talk with her and paid her for the job.

ALTERNATE SUSPECTS

Who else would have had a motive or an opportunity to kill Halbach? What about another member of the extended Avery family? Chuck Avery is Steve’s older brother. His former wife accused him of rape and of an attempt to strangle her. Chuck was on the premises when Halbach disappeared. Earl Avery is Steve’s younger brother. Earl was convicted of battery and sexual assault in 1992. He had also attacked his current wife. Earl was on the premises when Halbach disappeared.

What about Halbach’s boyfriend Ryan Hillegas? Could he have done all the things that were done on the Avery property? There was no evidence to support that theory.

What about other customers at the salvage yard? Sophie and Wolfgang Braun lived six miles from Avery’s Salvage. Wolfgang was a German national illegally in the United States. He had previously been in four mental health hospitals in Germany and Pittsburgh. Sophie charged her husband with domestic violence on Nov 6, 2005, just 18 hours after Halbach’s RAV4 was found six miles away. She told the authorities that the Nov 6 incident was not isolated. She said he once beat her so severely that he shattered her eardrum. She was terrified of her husband and afraid that he would kill her. Manitowoc County filed charges against Wolfgang.

Sophie also told Manitowoc that Wolfgang visited an auto salvage yard on Oct 31, 2005, the day Halbach disappeared. Wolfgang said a stupid female photographer wanted to take photos of their property. Sophie said he cut on his finger that day and she saw scratches on his back that night. She said her husband said he burned something. She found a gas can with blood on it. She also found a pair of women’s jeans, a pillowcase and a pair of women’s panties with red stains. As to the suggestion Wolfgang was involved with Halbach, Sophie was met with resistance by detectives who told her they already had their suspect and had no time for her nonsense. Nine days after Wolfgang was released from jail, he appeared at Sophie’s door in violation of his “no-contact” bail conditions. Sophie later said she no longer believed her husband was involved in the Halbach case.

JURY VERDICT

 A six-week trial began on Feb. 5, 2007. Jury selection took a full week. During the trial, the prosecution presented 50 witnesses and 500 exhibits. The jury deliberated for three days before reaching a verdict. The initial vote was 7 to 5 for an acquittal. They ultimately unanimously found him guilty of 1st degree intentional homicide and the mutilating of a corpse. After the Netflix series aired, 500,000 people signed pardon petitions, which were denied by President Obama, since he had no jurisdiction, and by then Wis. Gov. Scott Walker.

NETFLIX DOCUMENTARY

Netflix filmmakers Laura Ricciardi and Moira Demos made it appear like the police planted evidence. Griesbach argued viewers were shown only one side of the evidence. He referred to it as a propaganda piece disguised as a documentary.Griesbach argued the logistics of framing Avery would have been a nightmare. Not just one, but many pieces of evidence would have to have been planted, including body fragments, the RAV4,  the license plates, blood and DNA in the car, the ignition key in the bedroom, the bullet fragments in the garage, as well as Halbach’s phone and camera found in the burn barrel.

03/28/2012

Still No Arrest in Florida Murder

Since first writing about Trayvon Martin, the 17-year-old unarmed black kid who was gunned down by a 28-year-old blended Hispanic-white guy named George Zimmerman, additional facts have surfaced, but they still don’t alleviate the need to arrest Zimmerman and charge him with murder. An arrest is reasonable if there is probable cause to believe a crime has been committed, and that the defendant committed it.

On the night in question, Martin was walking down a street near where his father was staying in Sanford, Florida, when Zimmerman called the police, and speculated, after noting Martin was black: “This guy is up to no good.” In fact, the boy was simply returning from a convenience store, where he picked up a bag of skittles and a can of iced tea. Zimmerman then engaged in nothing but pure conjecture as he said: “He is on drugs or something.”

When he informed police he was going to pursue the black boy, dispatch directed him not to do so, advising him: “We don’t need you to do that,” but Zimmerman, who had been charged with Resisting Arrest and Battery Upon a Police Officer in 2005, and was also subjected to a Domestic Violence Restraining Order in 2005, ignored the dispatcher, took his gun, and went off after the black kid. Since Zimmerman was not a law enforcement officer, he had no authority to pursue, stop, detain, or do anything else he did.

With regards to what ultimately happened, Zimmerman should not be able to use the “Stand Your Ground” law, which Florida applies to public places, since he was not defending a home, and as he took off after the boy, he became the aggressor, and when they met in a neutral place, it was Martin who had the right to “Stand Your Ground,” which means the black kid had the right to use force, not Zimmerman.

This is why what Zimmerman says happened next is problematic. If you believe him, he said after he went out to get Martin, he lost him, gave up, and was returning to his vehicle, when the black kid inexplicably caught up to him from behind, and for no reason started an encounter. Let’s remember Martin weighed only 140 pounds, and the 28-year-old Zimmerman tipped in at 250, some 110 pounds more. It’s hard to believe an unarmed 17-year-old light-weight would start a fight with a 28-year-old man, who was a heavy-weight.

In any event, when the police arrived they noted Zimmerman had blood on his nose, and in the back of his head, and that his back was wet, and had grass on it, which inferred some sort of struggle.

The problem is Zimmerman is the only one who can testify as to what Martin allegedly said or did. No one will ever know for sure if his version is true, since the boy is dead, and unavailable to rebut him. Unlike civil cases, where interested parties can be barred by the Dead Man Statute from testifying as to what a deceased said, in a murder case, the Constitution requires the court to allow a defendant to give his version of the events.

Acknowledging that a prosecution may be challenging, an arrest should nevertheless proceed, since there is evidence contradicting Zimmerman’s story. As Zimmerman went after Martin, the black kid called his girlfriend stating a concern about a strange man who was following him. The girlfriend heard Martin say: “What are you following me for?” and a response: “What are you doing here?” She then heard a pushing sound, as the phone went dead. This implies an immediate encounter and disproves Zimmerman’s account.

Mary Cutcher and her roommate heard the incident as it was going on in her backyard. They heard a young whining voice, until the sound of a gun abruptly ended it. Although Zimmerman claimed those sounds were from him, this would mean he was crying while holding a gun in his hand. Zimmerman’s account does not line up with the audio evidence of the gunshot suddenly silencing the voice. When the two homeowners went outside, they observed Zimmerman on his knees, pinning Martin to the ground, which also contradicts Zimmerman.

Although Martin was found by the police face down, they reported he was shot in the chest. It is unclear if any autopsy was done, and what was found in terms of entry and exit wounds.

The lead homicide investigating officer filed an affidavit recommending the filing of manslaughter charges, but the State’s Attorney took no action, as he was concerned about a lack of evidence. Hopefully, the new prosecutor will proceed with this challenging case, so the evidence that still remains can be heard, and justice may be done.

03/21/2012

Black Kid in Florida was Murdered

Since a black youth was fatally shot in Florida a few weeks ago by a white neighborhood watch volunteer, law enforcement officers have failed to arrest the suspect, or turn the case over to the local District Attorney for prosecution, despite evidence the black kid was unarmed, and just walking down a public street, as the white man pursued him on foot, pulled out a gun when he caught up to him, intentionally squeezed the trigger, and killed him.

Attention has focused on a relatively recent Florida statute known as “hold your ground,” but no matter what it provides, Florida never repealed the law against murder. Since all the elements of the crime exist, there is no reason not to arrest the suspect, and no explanation except racism, for not seeking prosecution. Local Florida authorities seem to be viewing the law upside down.

“NO RETREAT” APPLIES AT HOME: Everyone would agree if one is attacked in their own home, they need not engage in any sort of retreat. This has always been true, but the Florida incident, did not occur in a home. It happened outside on a public roadway.

WHITE GUY HAD NO RIGHT TO PURSUE OR USE FORCE: One who initiates contact (the white guy here) is considered the aggressor, and as such, he had no right to use any force. More importantly, deadly force may only be used, if imminent death, or great bodily harm, is threatened.

BELIEF OF LAWFULNESS: It is no defense for the white guy to now say: “I believed my acts were legal.” If that were permitted, every defendant would make that argument.

BLACK KID HAD RIGHT OF SELF-DEFENSE: Generally, an individual, without fault, may use such force as is reasonably necessary to protect against imminent unlawful force by another. Since the white guy came at the black kid with a gun, for no reason, if anyone had a right to self-defense, it was the deceased. He had a right to “hold his ground,” not the other way around.

The execution of the black kid in this case cannot be justified. The only way to look at it, based on the undisputed facts that have been made public, is to call it what it is—a racially-motivated murder.