‘Making a Murderer’: Petitions to Free Steven Avery Draw More Than 200K Signatures

Avery is currently serving a life sentence for murder in Wisconsin.

ByABC News
January 4, 2016, 11:11 AM

— -- Fans of a popular Netflix show have signed a pair of petitions calling on President Obama to pardon the two men at the center of the murder mystery series.

More than 180,000 people have asked the president to pardon Steven Avery, the subject of "Making a Murderer," which explores the circumstances around his arrest and how he was convicted for the murder of photographer Teresa Halbach.

Avery was convicted of killing Halbach in 2007, but spent 18 years behind bars for a separate sexual assault conviction before being exonerated by DNA evidence in 2003. He was in the process of suing Manitowoc (WI) County and some of its officials for $36 million for the wrongful conviction when he was charged in Halbach's death in the same county. Avery’s lawyers claim their client was framed for Halbach’s murder because of his lawsuit.

"Avery's unconstitutional mistreatment at the hands of corrupt local law enforcement is completely unacceptable and is an abomination of due process," reads a petition on Change.org, which has garnered nearly 200,000 signatures.

A petition on the White House website has received almost 20,000 signatures. The White House has to respond to the petition if more than 100,000 people sign it by Jan. 19.

Petitioners are also asking Obama to pardon Avery's nephew, Brendan Dassey, who was separately convicted of sexually assaulting and helping his uncle kill Halbach.

The president does not have the legal authority to pardon state-level convictions -- only federal offenses.

"Based on the evidence in the Netflix documentary series 'Making a Murderer,' the justice system embarrassingly failed both men, completely ruining their entire lives," the White House petition reads.

Petition signers say the Netflix series reveals a lack of evidence in the case against Avery and a wrongful conviction, but Ken Kratz, the attorney who prosecuted Avery, said the series omits key evidence in the case linking him to Halbach's murder.

"You don't want to muddy up a perfectly good conspiracy movie with what actually happened, and certainly not provide the audience with the evidence the jury considered to reject that claim," Kratz told ABC News.

The filmmakers responded to the criticism in an interview with "Good Morning America" Tuesday.

"We wanted to present as many sides as we could, but at the same time, we wanted to tell a compelling story," they said.

"Making a Murderer" began streaming on Netflix in December, receiving favorable reviews from critics, celebs and viewers. It has drawn comparisons to popular podcast series "Serial" and HBO's "Jinx."