The election of two Democrats in Wisconsin could be good news for the stars of a Netflix documentary who claim they were wrongfully convicted of murder.
Governor Scott Walker and Attorney General Brad Schimel, both republican incumbents, lost their bids for reelection on Tuesday.
They are described as the top two elected officials most determined to keep Steven Avery and his nephew Brendan Dassey in jail.
Steven Avery (pictured) is currently serving a life sentence for the murder of Teresa Halbach
Brendan Dassey, 29, (above) was convicted for helping his uncle Steven Avery murder photographer Teresa Halbach in Two Rivers, Wisconsin in 2005
Democratic challengers Tony Evers (left) and Josh Kaul (right) both took seats in Wisconsin, which is perceived as positive for Wisconsin’s celebrity prisoners.
Dassey and Avery both appear in the hit Netflix series Making A Murderer and are both serving life sentences for the murder of photographer Teresa Halbach in Two Rivers, Wisconsin in 2005.
Democratic challengers Tony Evers and Josh Kaul both took seats in Wisconsin, which is perceived as positive for Wisconsin’s celebrity prisoners. They will replace Scott Walker and Brad Schimel as Governor and Attorney General.
Schimel fought Dassey ferociously, not only appealing Duffin’s ruling but making sure Dassey stayed in jail throughout his appeal process.
New Attorney General-elect Josh Kaul hasn’t specifically stated that he wants to change the way Avery and Dassey’s cases are being handled.
However sources told Rolling Stone that some believe the negative publicity Walker and Schimel caught from Making a Murderer may have cost them their reelections.
Season two of the true-crime series, which premiered October 19, chronicled attempts by the men’s legal teams to facilitate their release from prison for the apparent wrongful convictions.
The show captured the Dassey family’s emotional reaction to a decision by Federal District Court Judge William Duffin’s to overturn Dassey’s conviction when it was determined that the then-16-year-old’s confession was coerced.
Though Duffin ordered his immediate release, Schimel, the recently unseated former Attorney General, immediately appealed Duffin’s decision and convinced the Court of Appeals to block Dassey’s release.
In June 2018, the US Supreme Court refused to hear any further appeal and his conviction was upheld.
Governor Scott Walker (left) and Attorney General Brad Schimel (right), both republican incumbents, lost their bids for reelection on Tuesday
Now Dassey’s only hope is that fellow prisoner Steven Avery’s appeal will be more successful than his own legal battle.
Avery, who is represented by attorney Kathleen Zellner, is at the beginning of his first attempt at appealing his conviction and life sentence.
The Attorney General can tell the Department of Justice whether to fight a particular case or not, or whether to concede in certain areas or not.
Avery’s trial attorney, Jerry Buting, told Rolling Stone: ‘Kaul can order that a transparent review be done of their files and the special prosecutor’s files, as well as a reinvestigation of the case’.
Steven Avery (pictured) is at the beginning of first attempt at appealing his conviction and life sentence.
InOctober 2005, Teresa Halbach, a photographer for Auto Trader Magazine, went to Avery’s property to take photos of his sisters minivan. Her remains were later found on his property
Time will tell what kind of impact Kaul and Ever may have on Avery and Dassey in the months and years to come, but Kathleen Zellner, Avery’s current attorney, told Rolling Stone she is ‘guardedly optimistic’.
‘It would be a refreshing change if the newly elected governor and attorney general did not make pronouncements about the two cases for political gain, as their predecessors did, without taking the time to evaluate all of the evidence or lack thereof’.
After the airing of the series in 2015, one of the most high profile and prominent lawyers in country, Kathleen T Zellner, took over Avery’s case to prove his innocence.
Zellner was important to Avery’s case due to the high number of wrongful conviction cases she had won.
Lawyer Kathleen T Zellner (pictured) has taken over Avery’s case to prove his innocence in 2015
The second season, released October 19 this year, brought the compelling evidence against Avery under high scrutiny.
The second season focuses on Brenden Dassey, Avery’s nephew, which shows how Dassey was pressured by his own lawyer Len Kachinsky to confess to helping Avery kill Halbach.
Kachinsky also left Dassey alone to be interrogated by police while the lawyer carried out duties for the Wisconsin Army Reserve where he was lieutenant colonel.
The change in leadership in the Governor’s office is a substantial development for any prisoner who applies for clemency in the form of a pardon or commuted sentence.
Dassey’s conviction was overturned in August 2016 by federal magistrate William Duffin who explained Dassey’s constitutional rights were violated and Dassey should be freed pending an apperal, citing Kachinsky’s conduct as ‘indefensible’.
That is something the soon-to-be former Governor made clear he would never consider – in the Avery/Dassey cases or any other.
‘To me, the only people who are seeking pardons are people who have been guilty of a crime and I have a hard time undermining the actions of a jury and of a court,’ Walker told the Associated Press in 2013.
Walker was supposed to make appointments to a state advisory board to review pardons, but he eschewed the process altogether, and during his nearly eight years in office, he has not considered a single pardon, despite receiving thousands of applications.
‘The only governor in our history to do that,’ Buting notes.