After streaming the true crime doc-series Making a Murderer on Netflix, many viewers were left feeling like they needed to take action to help Steven Avery and his cousin Brenden Dassey, who are both in prison for a crime they say they did not commit. So a petition on the government site We The People began circulating, asking the president to pardon the men.
The petition said that based on the evidence in the documentary Making a Murderer, "the justice system embarrassingly failed both men, completely ruining their entire lives," adding that the Manitowoc County sheriff's department used improper methods that resulted in the convictions.
Because the petition on the White House-sponsored site for increasing participation in government obtained at least 100,000 signatures within 30 days — 129,895 signatures, according to the final tally — terms call for the White House to address it within 30 days. And now the verdict is in.
The White House explained that President Obama cannot pardon Avery.
"Under the Constitution, only federal criminal convictions, such as those adjudicated in the United States District Courts, may be pardoned by the President," the response reads. "In addition, the President's pardon power extends to convictions adjudicated in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia and military court-martial proceedings. However, the President cannot pardon a state criminal offense."
Since only federal criminal convictions can be pardoned by the president, and Avery and Dassey's cases are state criminal offenses, President Obama has no authority to take action, and only the authorities at the state level would be able to do so.
Still, the White House acknowledges that sometimes the justice system fails, something President Obama has worked to correct.
"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 White House writes.
While this may be another blow to Avery and his supporters, there is always hope on the state level. Although, after watching the doc-series, many may feel like this would be impossible.
To further educate people about Avery's case, mystery and suspense network Investigation Discovery announced on Jan. 7 that it will air a follow-up special called Front Page: The Steven Avery Story, hosted by journalist and Dateline NBC correspondent Keith Morrison.
The special will provide viewers with critical details about the case, and will air in late January.
Steven Avery was wrongfully convicted of sexual assault in 1985, serving 18 years in prison before DNA evidence exonerated him. After filing a $36 million lawsuit against Manitowoc County, Avery was arrested and convicted of the murder of Teresa Halbach along with his cousin Brendan Dassey.
Making a Murderer is available to stream on Netflix.