Steven Avery

Steven Avery

The White House has responded to those calling for the release of convicted murderer Steven Avery from prison.

Thousands have signed petitions calling for the release of Avery and his nephew Brendan Dassey, who are currently serving life in prison for the 2005 murder of photographer Teresa Halbach in Manitowoc County. The case is drawing attention because of a Netflix documentary that has raised questions about the investigation surrounding the case.

As of this morning, more than 356,000 people have signed the petition calling for Avery’s pardon. Another 53,000 have signed a petition advocating for Dassey’s release.

The White House responded Thursday, saying that it is beyond President Obama’s power to pardon Avery because he was convicted in a state court. “This clemency authority empowers the President to exercise leniency towards persons who have committed federal crimes. Under the Constitution, only federal criminal convictions, such as those adjudicated in the United States District Courts, may be pardoned by the President. 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.”

Any type of pardon would need to come from Governor Scott Walker, who reaffirmed his position on the issue earlier this week. Walker has said he will not issue pardons while he is governor, and those who feel they have been wrongfully convicted can appeal the decision.

The responses have prompted new petitions that call for a U.S. Justice Department investigation into the process used to convict Avery and his nephew Brendan Dassey for Halbach’s murder.

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