Public outcry aside, the president is constitutionally barred from intervening in the case
The White House and Change.org petitions demanding a presidential pardon for Steven Avery, the subject of the Netflix series “Making a Murderer,” are a definite sign of support for the Wisconsin man who many believe was wrongfully convicted of murder in 2007.
But in terms of real-world implications, it doesn’t appear that they will amount to much more than wishful thinking.
While the White House petition surpassed 100,000 signatures — the threshold that qualifies the petition for White House review — this week, Obama is constitutionally barred from pardoning Avery, because he was convicted in state court.
“Under the Constitution, only federal criminal convictions, such as those adjudicated in the United States District Courts, may be pardoned by the President,” the Department of Justice’s website explains. “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.”
Likewise, Avery won’t be pardoned by current Wisconsin governor Scott Walker, to whom the Change.org petition is also addressed. In a statement, Walker’s press secretary noted that Walker has made it a policy not to issue pardons.
“These events took place before Governor Walker took office,” press secretary Laurel Patrick said, according to the Huffington Post. “Governor Walker has not watched this documentary. As you may know, early in his administration, Governor Walker made the decision not to issue pardons … Those who feel they have been wrongly convicted can seek to have their convictions overturned by a higher court.”
In 2011, a state appeals court shot down Avery’s attempt to obtain a new trial in the murder of photographer Teresa Halbach. However, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, there is currently a pending federal court action aiming to have the conviction tossed, or to grant a new trial.
The White House has not yet responded to TheWrap’s request for comment on the petition.
The Netflix documentary series, which premiered in December, has sparked heated debate, not just among viewers in general, with Ken Kratz, the prosecutor in Avery’s case, claiming that the series omitted key evidence.