Steven Avery, 41, was released from a Wisconsin jail in September after serving more than 17 years for a rape he did not commit.
Avery became a suspect in the rape of a jogger after a Sheriff’s officer thought the woman’s description of the suspect sounded like Avery who had a couple of previous burglary convictions. Despite numerous witnesses who testified seeing Avery elsewhere at the time of the rape, he was convicted based on the strength of the victim’s testimony.
Avery was exonerated after DNA testing of 13 hairs found at the scene did not match Avery’s DNA. Instead, they matched the DNA of convicted rapist Gregory Allen who is currently serving a 60-year sentence for a later sexual assault.
How could the victim have been so sure about her identification of Avery and been so wrong? ONe of the problems with suspect identification is how police procedures can reinforce false identifications. According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel,
The victim later identified Avery as her attacker in a photo lineup and in a live lineup of suspects — but only Avery was included in both lineups. . .
Interestingly, the victim sent a letter of apology to Avery for misidentifying him. She noted that although both Avery and Allen fit the general description she gave, police never showed her Allen’s picture despite the fact that he had previous convictions for exposing himself and trying to grab a woman in the area where the rape occurred.
Although he served more than 17 years in jail for a crime he did not commit, under Wisconsin law Avery can only recover a maximum of $25,000 in compensation from the state for his wrongful conviction.
Avery entitled to only $25,000 for mistake. Gina Barton, Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, September 13, 2003.
Wrongly convicted man freed. Tom Kertscher, Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, September 11, 2003.
Steven Avery picking up where he left off Robert Imrie, Associated Press, October 5, 2003.
Victim sends apology to Steven Avery. Associated Press, September 22, 2003.
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