Judge denies Steven Avery's request for new trial

SHEBOYGAN, Wis. - A Sheboygan County Circuit Court judge has denied Steven Avery's request for a new trial in the murder case of Teresa Halbach.

Judge Angela Sutkiewicz issued her decision on Tuesday, October 3.

Avery and his attorneys, Kathleen Zellner and Steven Richards, submitted a motion requesting Avery be granted a new trial on several grounds.

They argued new scientific tests created doubt about the evidence in Avery's criminal trial and said the police investigation was "a level below professional standards," according to court documents.

In response to the argument that forensic tests are now available that weren't during Avery's 2005 trial, Judge Sutkiewicz asked if the tests were available at the time of Avery's previous appeals and motions filed after his trial.

Avery said his post-conviction counsel was "ineffective" for not mentioning those forensic tests previously, but the judge determined a circuit court is not "authorized..to resolve claims of ineffective assistance."

Judge Sutkiewicz also mentioned several DNA issues from Avery and his attorneys, including their claim that new testing shows DNA found on the hood latch of Halbach's car couldn't have come from Avery touching it.

The report submitted by Avery and his attorneys said in a test, 15 people touched the hood latch of a car similar to Halbach's and 11 left no trace. They argued this meant it was highly unlikely Avery's touch left DNA.

However, the judge said the test does not rule out Avery because four people did leave detectable DNA. Also, the judge said the report did not mention how much DNA was left or offer any comparable data.

In addition, Avery and his attorneys argued his DNA was planted on Halbach's key found in his trailer.

The judge responded that there is "no question" Avery's DNA was on the key, and none of the examples they gave proved that the key was planted.

Finally, Avery and his lawyers said the bullet that helped convict him, which was allegedly used in Halbach's murder, did not pass through any bone and had a red stain that was paint, not blood.

Judge Sutkiewicz said the report indicates the tests performed can't determine what the red substance on bullet is, and further testing would need to be done to determine if it's blood.

Also, the judge said the expert witness said the tests used on the bullet could not discover "all particles" on the bullet surface. The expert said more detailed analysis would be necessary, according to Judge Sutkiewicz.

All three items of evidence were submitted at trial, the judge said. 

"Given the totality of evidence submitted at trial and the ambiguous conclusions as stated in the experts' reports, it cannot be said that a reasonable probability exists that a different result would be reached at a new trial based on these reports," Judge Sutkiewicz wrote in her decision.

Judge Sutkiewicz ruled that Avery failed to "establish any grounds that would trigger the right to a new trial in the interests of justice."

Avery's lawyer Kathleen Zellner responded to the judge's decision with the following statement:

"We are filing an amended petition because we have additional test results and witness affidavits.  The scientific testing is not completed.  We remain optimistic that Mr. Avery's conviction will be vacated."

 

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