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In this 2007 photo, Steven Avery listens to testimony in the courtroom at the Calumet County Courthouse in Chilton, Wisconsin. (AP file photo)

Across the Region: ‘Making a Murderer’ attorney seeks more evidence testing


‘Making a Murderer’ attorney seeks more evidence testing

The attorney for a Wisconsin inmate featured in the hit Netflix series “Making a Murderer” filed a motion Friday seeking permission to perform extensive testing on evidence she believes will show he’s innocent.

Steven Avery was convicted in 2007 and sentenced to life in prison in the death of 25-year-old photographer Teresa Halbach, who disappeared after a visit to the Avery family’s Manitowoc County salvage yard in 2005. Avery has argued he was framed.

His attorney, Kathleen Zellner, told reporters awaiting her filing outside the Manitowoc County courthouse that she wants to date blood and DNA found at the scene to see if it was planted. She promised the results will show that Avery isn’t guilty and that someone else killed Halbach.

Her motion notes that forensic science has advanced dramatically since Avery was convicted. It asks for testing and retesting on an extensive list of evidence, including Halbach’s vehicle key, which was found in Avery’s room with his DNA on it; Avery’s blood found in the vehicle; and a pair of women’s underwear found in the yard to see if they belonged to Halbach and contain male DNA.

“The most reassuring thing is that we are going to get to the bottom of who killed Teresa Halbach,” Zellner said. “And we firmly believe that we will establish it was not Steven Avery.”

The Wisconsin Department of Justice is handling post-conviction activity in Avery’s case on behalf of county prosecutors.

Avery, now 54, was charged in November 2005 with sexually assaulting and killing Halbach, who disappeared that Halloween after traveling to the salvage yard to shoot photos for a car magazine. Investigators found her charred remains in a burn pit in the yard.

Avery and his then 16-year-old nephew, Brendan Dassey, lived on the property. A jury in 2007 convicted Avery of being a party to first-degree intentional homicide and a judge sentenced him to life in prison.

Later that year, a separate jury convicted Dassey of being party to first-degree intentional homicide, mutilating a corpse and sexual assault. He, too, was sentenced to life.

Two years before Halbach’s death, Avery had been released from prison after spending 18 years behind bars for rape that a DNA test later showed he didn’t commit.

Avery contended police framed him for Halbach’s death because the rape exoneration embarrassed them and he had a $36 million wrongful conviction lawsuit pending against Manitowoc County. That lawsuit collapsed when he was arrested in Halbach’s death.


VA center sued in overdose

The family of a Marine veteran who died from a toxic mix of more than a dozen drugs at a U.S. Veterans Affairs facility in Tomah, Wisconsin, filed a wrongful death and medical malpractice lawsuit against the U.S. government Monday.

The federal lawsuit filed in Madison, Wisconsin, alleges VA caregivers improperly prescribed and administered drugs to Jason Simcakoski, who was 35 when he died in 2014. It also alleges the VA failed to provide adequate emergency care for Simcakoski when he was found unresponsive and did not properly diagnose his mental health and substance abuse problems.

Last year, the VA’s inspector general ruled that deficiencies in care led to Simcakoski’s death. One physician who attended to him was fired.

According to the lawsuit, a doctor prescribed Simcakoski Suboxone — a drug often used to treat addicts of heroin and other opiates — to alleviate chronic pain and potentially decrease anxiety. The lawsuit alleges Simcakoski was not warned that was an off-label use of the drug or that Suboxone would interact with other medicines he was already taking. It also alleges he was given too high a dosage.



Ex-prosecutor pleads not guilty in underwear theft case

A Marshalltown school board member who resigned his post as a prosecutor has pleaded not guilty to trespassing and theft charges.

Authorities say a co-worker accused Ben Stansberry of stealing underwear from her home. He was arrested Monday and released.  A trial date hasn’t been set.

Marshalltown Police Chief Mike Tupper says Stansberry’s co-worker reported the underwear missing on Aug. 22, after Stansberry stopped by her Marshalltown home. Tupper stressed that the woman and Stansberry only worked together and had no personal relationship.

Marshall County Attorney Jennifer Miller has said Stansberry resigned from her office Friday. An assistant Iowa attorney general has been assigned to prosecute Stansberry.

Stansberry was elected to the Marshalltown school board in November.

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