New book counters ‘Making a Murderer’
Published 4:46 pm Tuesday, September 13, 2016
By Bruce Vielmetti, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (TNS)
MILWAUKEE — Millions who watched “Making a Murderer” on Netflix are convinced Steven Avery was framed for the 2005 rape and murder of 25-year-old photograph Teresa Halbach.
Michael Griesbach is not among them, and he’s written a new book to try and counter the growing worldwide publicity about efforts to free Avery, who is serving life in prison.
“I think it is important for someone to do it,” he said. “I’m in a position to push back a little bit.”
“Indefensible: The Missing Truth about Steven Avery, Teresa Halbach and Making a Murderer,” released last week by Kensington Publishing, could land Griesbach right back in the eye of the social media storm that has been swirling in the docu-series’ wake, and has recently intensified.
A federal magistrate judge last month threw out the conviction of Avery’s nephew, Brendan Dassey, who at 16 was found guilty of helping his uncle in the crimes, citing a manipulative interrogation and resulting confession, which he later recanted. The state attorney general’s office is expected to announce soon whether it intends to retry the case.
And on Aug. 26, just days before the release of “Indefensible,” Avery’s new attorney filed court papers seeking to retest evidence, a process she has promised will lead to a new suspect.
Griesbach, 55, a Manitowoc County assistant district attorney since 1991, stresses that his book and his comments about it and Avery-related cases are his alone and that he does not speak for any prosecutor’s office or the Wisconsin Innocence Project, where he is a board member.
He was not involved in Avery’s prosecution, but feels like his community, colleagues and even he personally have been wrongly buried in an avalanche of negative social media — and threats on their lives — generated by the blockbuster popularity of “Making a Murderer.”
Ironically, Griesbach’s last book, 2014’s “Innocent Killer,” was a scathing critique of predecessor Manitowoc County officials whose negligent, if not malicious, investigation and prosecution of Avery for a 1985 rape resulted in his wrongful conviction. Avery spent 18 years in prison before winning release in 2003 after the real attacker was identified through DNA.
Because Avery was suing Manitowoc County over the wrongful conviction at the time, his murder case was assigned to an outside prosecutor and his 2007 trial was held in Calumet County.
The very end of “Innocent Killer” noted Avery’s later conviction in the Halbach murder and didn’t question its propriety. And for that, Griesbach says, fans of the Netflix series attacked him as either an “utter fool” or being “in on” framing Avery.
A particularly fierce and energetic critic orchestrated a campaign to have “Making a Murderer” fans flood Amazon with negative reviews of “Innocent Killer,” driving its ranking down from 4-plus stars to barely 2. He said haters have also hijacked his Facebook page with personal attacks. He said he’s prepared for more of the same as the Avery supporters hear about his new book.
Griesbach, who was interviewed extensively as part of the early reaction to “Making a Murderer,” said his publisher needed a very quick turnaround. He said he took two months leave from his job to revisit all the evidence and meticulously break down the documentary series, citing particular edits and omissions that leave most viewers convinced Avery was wrongly convicted, and why Griesbach thinks the outcome was correct.
He admits some of his book includes information about Avery that wasn’t admissible as evidence at trial, but that is relevant outside a trial, just like “Making a Murderer” involves much information from outside the trial record.
He credits the Netflix series for being compelling and convincing. He said it made him start to doubt his own initial beliefs when he first watched it because it had information he didn’t know, like the video of Dassey’s interrogation.
But after his recent review, Griesbach said, he’s more convinced than ever of Avery’s guilt, and more certain that “Making a Murder” was made to promote the theory Avery was framed. The filmmakers have said repeatedly they did not take sides, but only wanted to show and question the process.
In his new book, Griesbach recounts how he got an email from “a concerned citizen” right after the series dropped in December. A link took him to a blog that mentioned a woman who claimed she suspected her husband might have been involved in Halbach’s murder.
After tracking down the blogger to get a name, Griesbach was surprised to learn it was a man he had prosecuted for domestic violence. The man, a German national whom Griesbach refers to with a pseudonym, lived only a few miles from Avery’s scrap yard. His wife called 911 about 18 hours after Halbach’s SUV was found hidden on Avery’s scrap yard. She said he had beaten her. Later, she told investigators she had found some women’s clothing hidden in her house, a gas can with blood on it in the garage, and some bloody surgical gloves in her husband’s tool box.
What’s more, “Wolfgang Braun” had mentioned being at a scrap yard and seeing a “stupid photographer,” and when his wife first shared all this with sheriff’s deputies in relation to the Halbach case, she said they told her they didn’t have time for such nonsense.
Griesbach writes of reviewing the files on Christmas Eve, and his relief to see his notes confirming that he and his boss had notified the special prosecutor in Avery’s case, Ken Kratz, about the wife’s claims. Griesbach says, to the best of his knowledge, the prosecution team made the information known to the defense.
He said he is also sure, now, that “Braun” had nothing to do with Halbach’s murder, but wouldn’t be surprised if Avery’s new attorney, Kathleen Zellner, suggests him as the alternate suspect.
“I’m just trying, I believe, to set the record straight,” he said. “It may just look like we’re all just trying to make money (referring to others writing books and giving lectures related to the Avery case), but if you’ve worked in the system 30 years, you do care.”
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