DNA Evidence to Receive Independent Scientific Testing in the ‘Making a Murderer’ Case

The Seattle Times has reported that Steven Avery’s defense counsel and attorneys for the State have filed an agreement in the Court of Appeals to begin independent scientific testing of several pieces of physical evidence in the case.

Mr. Avery was convicted of the 2005 rape homicide of a newspaper photographer, and the story of his legal battle to prove his innocence is the subject of a 2015 Netflix documentary series, Making a Murderer. His nephew, Brendan Dassey, was also convicted in the case for helping his uncle to rape and murder the photographer in Mr. Avery’s home.

Brendan, who is developmentally delayed and has a below average IQ, was a teenager at the time of the killing. He appealed his conviction. Brendan’s lawyers asserted that law enforcement officers used improper interrogation procedures to manipulate a naïve and vulnerable boy to confess to crimes which never happened and for which there is no physical evidence. In August, U.S. Magistrate Judge William Duffin, ruling on Brendan’s appeal, found that investigators had coerced Brendan into confessing. The judge overturned his conviction, but State attorneys are currently appealing the decision.

In the meantime, much of the physical evidence originally collected from Mr. Avery’s home and from the photographer’s vehicle will now be retested by an independent lab. The physical evidence to be tested from the crime scene includes: a bloodstain cutting from the photographer’s Toyota RAV4 driver seat, a swab of the ignition area of the RAV4, a bloodstain cutting from the passenger seat, a swab of a bloodstain from a CD case, a swab of a bloodstain near the rear passenger door, blood flakes on the floor by the center console, a swab from the hood latch, and the key to the RAV4.

Mr. Avery’s attorney hopes the result of the independent scientific analysis will help show that previous DNA test results linking Mr. Avery to the photographer’s vehicle were fabricated from other known DNA samples that law enforcement officers had in their possession. Both Mr. Avery and Brendan have argued that they were framed by law enforcement in the photographer’s rape and homicide.

The defense contends that county law enforcement officials were angry with Mr. Avery for filing a lawsuit against them over his wrongful imprisonment for a sexual assault he did not commit. Mr. Avery was exonerated of that crime in 2003 (after serving eighteen years in prison) when DNA testing unequivocally proved that a serial sex offender had actually committed the assault.