The Problematic Case of Steven Avery’s DNA

The Netflix docu-series “Making a Murderer” has been in global news headlines for months now. The show tells the story of Steven Avery, a man who was found guilty of sexual assault in 1985, but was later exonerated by DNA testing after spending 18 years in prison.

Avery then filed a lawsuit against the county for his wrongful imprisonment. Soon afterward, Avery was again imprisoned, this time for murder, and his DNA was again front and center. Here are three times that Steven Avery’s DNA helped — or harmed — his case.

Incident #1: Exoneration

Steven Avery had been in prison for 18 years on sexual assault charges before the Wisconsin Innocence Project took up his case. Using technology that had not been available when Avery was initially sentenced, they studied a sample of his DNA. The DNA testing showed that Avery was not guilty of the assault, and that the DNA matched that of another man who was also imprisoned on unrelated charges. Avery was released from prison.

a photo of DNA strandsIncident #2: Tampering?

In November of 2005, just four years after his release, Avery was arrested again and accused of the murder of Teresa Halbach. Police investigators found drops of blood inside Teresa’s vehicle. Avery’s lawyers argued that the blood was planted by police using a sample taken from Avery during his original trial. The tampering issue is still up for debate.

Incident #3: “Sweat” DNA

After the blood tampering debacle, police came back and found more DNA beneath the hood of Teresa’s vehicle. This time, they claimed that the DNA had come from Avery’s sweat, and that there was no possibility of it having been planted, because they had no samples of sweat from Avery. This was a convoluted response, since DNA testing does not reveal if a sample came from a person’s sweat.

As you can see, this case remains quite the mystery, and Avery remains in prison.

If you have questions about DNA testing, or need a DNA test to prove your innocence, contact us today! We are the DNA experts, and we will be happy to help.