The Netflix documentary series Making A Murderer has attracted a lot of attention since it premiered online on December 18, and now the White House is officially talking about it. Specifically, on Thursday, President Barack Obama’s administration responded with a “No Can Do” to a petition asking the president to pardon the imprisoned Steve Avery. The White House also said that it can’t help Avery’s also behind bars nephew Brendon Dassey.
“Since Steven Avery and Brendan Dassey are both state prisoners, the president cannot pardon them,” the White House said online today about the We the People petition submitted December 20. “A pardon in this case would need to be issued at the state level by the appropriate authorities.”
Under its own system that enforces an official response once a petition reaches 100,000 signatures, the White House today went on to say that it appreciated the interest by the nearly 130,000 signatories in the now-widely discussed case of the murder of Teresa Halbach — which is the subject of Making A Murderer. “While this case is out of the Administration’s purview, President Obama is committed to restoring the sense of fairness at the heart of our justice system. That’s why he has granted 184 commutations total — more than the last five presidents combined — and has issued 66 pardons over his time in office.”
The 10-episode docuseries from directors Laura Ricciardi and Moira Demos severely questions Avery’s arrest and murder conviction for the 2005 killing of photographer Halbach. Avery’s 2007 conviction struck many as suspicious. He had been exonerated in 2003 after serving 18 years for sexual assault and had filed a $36 million civil suit against Wisconsin’s Manitowoc County. It was teen Dassey’s vivid testimony on the murder that sealed both his and his uncle’s fate in the rape and murder of 25-year-old Halbach. Making A Murderer investigates that that the Manitowoc County Sheriff’s Department used improper methods to convict the duo, to quote the petition.
“Steven Avery should be exonerated at once by pardon, and the Manitowoc County officials complicit in his two false imprisonments should be held accountable to the highest extent of the U.S. criminal and civil justice systems,” said another similar petition put up on Change.org and addessed to Obama and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker. The White House also responded to that petition, which has topped 347,100 online signatures.