The Slatest

Hey, Making a Murderer Fans: Obama Can’t Pardon Steven Avery

Steven Avery, Making A Murderer Mugshot
Steven Avery from the Netflix original documentary series Making a Murderer.

Courtesy of Netflix

Step aside, Adnan Syed: America’s true crime addicts have found a new hero to care about, and his name is Steven Avery.

The subject of a hit Netflix documentary series called Making a Murderer, Avery is currently serving a life sentence for murder stemming from the grisly death of a 25-year-old photographer whose remains were found on Avery’s property in 2005.

Many fans of Making a Murderer, which sheds light on questionable conduct by the prosecutors and police involved in Avery’s conviction, view the 53-year-old’s imprisonment as a gross miscarriage of justice, and in recent days they have moved to voice their opinion through a pair of widely circulated online petitions that call on President Obama to pardon Avery. Between them, the petitions have garnered more than 200,000 signatures.

There’s just one problem: Obama couldn’t spring Avery from prison if he wanted to. Avery is a state prisoner convicted under state law. The president only has the constitutional power to pardon or commute the sentences of people in the federal system.

Fans of Making a Murderer who believe Avery deserves clemency should consider signing this petition addressed to Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, which has so far been signed by just 1,033 people. That said, the effort is not likely to be productive. From the Marshall Project:  

“He [Walker] has absolutely, utterly refused to grant pardons,” says P.S. Ruckman, Jr., a political scientist at Northern Illinois University who keeps a record of the pardons issued by all 50 governors. “His approach is simply: ‘I won’t do it.’ ”

Via John Gramlich, criminal justice researcher for the Pew Charitable Trusts