Eleven days ago, a press release announced Making a Murderer subject, Steven Avery had a new legal team. Since many wondered if there was a compelling reason the Innocence Project hadn’t picked up Avery’s defense again (they’d helped free him after his first wrongful conviction), it was notable that the organization’s Legal Director, Tricia Bushnell was joining Kathleen Zellner to work on his case. Zellner has a remarkable record of reversing seventeen convicted men, saving at least one from death row.
Reading around — even here at Pajiba — it’s clear that despite believing Avery didn’t get a fair trial, many people think he might be guilty of Teresa Halbach’s murder, and perhaps that’s why Zellner has quite emphatically taken his defense to Twitter:
Visit w/Steven Avery at Waupon CC. He is identical to the other 17 innocent men we've cleared. Won't quit until he's out. #MakingAMurderer— Kathleen Zellner (@ZellnerLaw) January 12, 2016
Another visit to Steven Avery. 38 boxes of files reviewed. He remains innocent & framed. #MakingAMurderer— Kathleen Zellner (@ZellnerLaw) January 20, 2016
Yesterday: in bedroom where key was "found." Room is so small could not have missed unless they searched w/eyes closed. #MakingAMurderer— Kathleen Zellner (@ZellnerLaw) January 21, 2016
That bit about the found key is one of the most troubling points of the “investigation;” in fact, amateur online sleuths have made an interesting discovery that doesn’t necessarily prove anything, but does add to the things that make you rethink the case. Speaking with Rolling Stone, Jerry Buting (one of Avery’s original defense lawyers) said that a web detective had noticed in a photo of Halbach that she held a keychain with multiple keys on it; whereas in Avery’s home, only one key (to Halbach’s RAV4) had been discovered after multiple searches.
That’s from a zoom on this Netflix photo that Buting said he’s looked at “a thousand times,” and “never caught the fact that there was a photograph showing that what she really carried around was a bunch of keys, and none of those keys were ever found.”
Even in that close-up, it’s ridiculously hard to see the keys and (amateur that I am) I doubt that would hold up as any kind of proof in court. The one key could have been detachable, but it certainly is suspect that other keys (house) were never found.
In her other tweets, Zellner shared more observations,
Also body was not burned in burn pit bc heat would have burned down Avery's garage. A lot of junk science at the junkyard. #MakingAMurderer— Kathleen Zellner (@ZellnerLaw) January 21, 2016
including this one that calls a New Yorker piece on “What Making a Murderer Got Wrong” out as being incorrect .
The New Yorker got it so wrong: said sweat on battery cable not planted . You're right bc there is no DNA in sweat. https://t.co/bAOF6Kx4WZ— Kathleen Zellner (@ZellnerLaw) January 21, 2016
This morning I exchanged messages with an evidence technician who has testified as an expert witness in federal court. When I asked if Zellner’s assertion about no DNA in sweat was correct, she responded that while technically, the perspiration itself does not contain DNA, skin cells and amino acids that are in the sweat do.
“…skin cells usually come off with sweat which holds the DNA…when you leave your fingerprints, you’re actually leaving a mix of sweat, water, and amino acids which carry DNA and also make the impression of your fingerprint. So, more generally, sweat is going to contain those amino acids.”
Another thing that comes to mind is even if Avery’s sweat was on the hood latch of Halbach’s vehicle, you’ll also remember that she had met with Avery to photograph a vehicle at the salvage yard. His perspiration could easily have come in contact with her vehicle during their meeting, depending upon where the hood latch was, and whether it was inside or outside. Did she retrieve her camera equipment from the trunk, and was he standing nearby? My source confirms such speculation is “a good point.”
In response to prosecutor Ken Kratz’s statements that the Making a Murderer left out evidence, filmmaker Laura Ricciardi also noted that the hood latch DNA may not have been from sweat at all.
“What comes out on the trial is there was no way of knowing what kind of DNA it is, and that the person who found the DNA had just been examining Steven’s DNA in the car and had not changed his gloves. It might have meaning it might not have meaning. It was certainly not the most damning evidence that Steven Avery had killed Teresa Halbach.”
As for Avery’s DNA purportedly being found on Halbach’s key (though oddly, her own DNA was not), Zellner posits an explanation:
Culprit had to remove his own DNA from key so TH's removed in process.Rub key on Avery's clothes for skin cells. Presto #MakingAMurderer— Kathleen Zellner (@ZellnerLaw) January 22, 2016
And this morning, the attorney continued to present information.
The 22 recovered from garage did not exit TH's head. State expert failed to testify bullet exited—that 22 driven to scene #MakingAMurderer— Kathleen Zellner (@ZellnerLaw) January 22, 2016
I honestly cannot come to a solid conclusion myself; there are so many questions on both sides of the guilty/not guilty equation unanswered, and like everyone else, I’m curious to see what Avery’s new team uncovers.