Speaking directly to the media for the first time since the Netflix documentary on Steven Avery came out, a regular juror in the Steven Avery case insisted to OnMilwaukee on Tuesday night in a lengthy phone interview that Avery is guilty and was not framed by law enforcement.
The juror – who spoke to OnMilwaukee on the condition of total anonymity – expressed general trust in law enforcement and said in the interview that police throughout the country have been mistreated in the media over the past year, a trend the juror thinks is also reflected in the Avery documentary on Netflix, which the person dubbed "one-sided."
"I haven’t changed my mind," said the juror, emphatically, of Avery’s guilt, despite the national and international furor generated by the "Making a Murderer" documentary, which the juror has watched in full. "No one was afraid of anybody. We all worked together." The juror said the documentary ran 10 hours, whereas the trial was much lengthier and included more evidence. Those who criticize the jury weren't there, said this juror.
After finding Avery guilty, this juror said, "I came home and slept like a baby."
If Avery was released, as many thousands of petitioners now want, the juror would feel "sick."
"I would feel really bad for the Halbachs," the juror said. "So far, they have justice. I don’t see that (Avery's release) ever happening. I don’t see the justice system as broken. I don’t see it broken."
OnMilwaukee obtained the jurors' names Tuesday and started contacting them. Since the Netflix documentary took off, and since the trial a decade ago, Avery jurors have been largely silent – until now.
Earlier Tuesday, the "Today" show aired a segment with the two Netflix documentarians, in which they said a juror in the case had told them that that person believed Avery was framed and had voted guilty out of fear. The documentarians did not identify that juror, who has not spoken directly to the media. The juror who spoke to OnMilwaukee is a different person.
Going down the list of names, various jurors appeared to be deceased, their phone numbers disconnected, or they simply weren’t home. Until this juror answered the phone, that is, and agreed to talk after some prodding, finally giving at least one voice to the until now silent jury that has been excoriated by some on Internet threads and sites.
The person who spoke to OnMilwaukee voted and deliberated in the case. The juror emphatically stated that the juror does not believe that any jurors found Avery guilty because they feared for their own safety and that they did not compromise by trading votes, contradicting an account also broken by the "Today" show earlier Tuesday.
"None of us jurors were afraid for our lives, none of us," said the Avery juror. At another point, the person added, "There was nobody afraid for their life, there was no compromising, there was no, ‘if you do this or that,’ nothing."
Also on Tuesday, alternate juror Richard Mahler repeated to OnMilwaukee an account that he gave to People magazine earlier in the day, in which he alleged that one of the jurors had a son who worked for the Manitowoc County Sheriff’s Department and another was the husband of a woman who worked in the Manitowoc Clerk of Courts Office. Mahler, who was dismissed from the case because of a family emergency, said he believes Avery was framed and was not guilty.
Being read the list of jurors’ names by OnMilwaukee, Mahler pinpointed the name of the juror he said had the sheriff’s deputy son. OnMilwaukee tried to contact this man directly, but his phone number is now disconnected. Through relational search databases, the news site identified two younger men connected to this man through what appears to be familial relationships.
A man with the same name as one of those two, and the same last name as the juror was, according to his resume posted online, a Manitowoc County Sheriff’s corrections supervisor and corrections officer from 2000 to 2010, coordinating the "operations of correctional facility," among other duties. In the resume, this man describes himself as a "… Corrections Sergeant with over ten years of experience in supervising, maintaining custody and coordinating movement of incarcerated offenders …"
The juror who spoke to OnMilwaukee on Tuesday night repeatedly expressed great distrust in the media and would only speak on the case if OnMilwaukee would agree to not print the juror’s name, gender or identifying details, saying other media had also called earlier in the day but the juror was not home and did not talk to them. The juror did not want to be identified due to media intensity and web sleuthing in the case.
"I don’t think people get it," the juror added. "They don’t see the whole picture. It’s a big vicious circle. They’re blinded. They’re not seeing the whole picture." That’s because people did not sit through the actual trial and hear all of the evidence, said the juror.
As to the news that Gov. Scott Walker’s office announced earlier Tuesday that Walker will not pardon Avery because the governor has a practice of issuing no pardons ever, the juror said, "Scott Walker, that was about the only smart thing he’s ever done. I don’t see (a pardon) happening, no way."
Mahler, however, has spoken freely in the media. On Tuesday, he said he had talked directly to the juror referenced in the "Today" show account and that this juror had also told him about now thinking Avery was framed and voting out of fear.
The juror who talked to OnMilwaukee at first blamed Mahler for being the juror in the "Today" show interview, expressing disbelief that any regular juror could hold the beliefs recounted and labeling Mahler a "thrill seeker." Mahler, however, told OnMilwaukee that he is not the juror discussed in the "Today" show story.
The juror interviewed Tuesday – who denied any tie to law enforcement – expressed confidence in police in general, saying they’ve been mistreated in the media during the past year. The hoopla over the Netflix documentary "Making a Murder" is more mistreatment of law enforcement, said the juror.
Asked if the juror believed sheriff’s officials framed Avery or planted evidence, this juror stated emphatically, "No, come on. It’s just no." The juror said the juror’s only tie to law enforcement is a relative who knew Trooper Trevor Casper, who was slain by a bank robber last spring.
The juror said the documentarians and Internet sleuths are "feeding off" negative coverage of police this past year.
"That’s all going around now. Cops shooting other people in the backs and everything – turn on the news. So yeah, everybody jumps to conclusions."
At another point, the juror reiterated this theme, saying of the media and Internet critics, "They thrive on that all in the news, bad cops, cops shooting kids in the back." The juror doesn’t believe the coverage is fair.
Asked if the juror has respect for law enforcement in general, this juror said, "Just like anyone else." Asked where the juror obtained this belief, the juror said it came from being "brought up hard-working, respectful. I think a lot of the younger people nowadays are not respectful; parents aren’t home, they’re not respectful, they cover for their kids doing wrong."
The juror called the "Making a Murderer" series "one sided." This juror told OnMilwaukee that nothing in the documentary changed the juror’s mind about the case and urged OnMilwaukee to go look through the boxes of court records from the case down at the courthouse. "You have to read the 4-6 boxes."
Asked what motive the juror ascribed to Avery for the homicide, the juror stated that he/she believed Avery’s incarceration for his earlier wrongful conviction rape case may have changed him into a killer.
"If you were where he was for 18 years …" the juror said, voice trailing off. Asked whether the juror was saying that prison turned Avery into a person capable of killing, the juror said yes. Asked whether the juror believed that Avery was wrongfully convicted the first time in the sexual assault case, the person said, "We all saw what happened. DNA exonerated him." Does the juror think he did that offense, too? No, said the juror.
Pledge of silence
Until this juror answered the telephone and, after some hesitation, agreed to speak for an hour to this news site about the case, this juror said all of the jurors took a group pledge to never talk to the news media.
"When we were done, we all chose, we all voted, and we chose unanimously not to talk to any media ever and not to bring it up anymore, and none of us did," said the juror. Asked repeatedly which evidence was most persuasive for guilt, the juror declined to comment and again urged OnMilwaukee to go to the courthouse and read the file.
"There’s stuff they left out. Stuff they didn’t even show," said the juror of the filmmakers. Asked for specifics, the juror said, "I’m not going to comment on that." The juror added, "I don’t trust the media."
Keys and blood
Pressed about specifics in the case, such as whether the juror found it suspicious that a Manitowoc County Sheriff’s official had found Halbach’s car key in Avery’s bedroom after repeated searches by other agencies did not turn it up and after being deposed in Avery's civil law suit, the juror said no.
"No, you just have to think," said the juror. "It was shaken how many times and all of a sudden it was there. It came out of somewhere, totally." Asked whether the juror was saying the key was planted or that the sheriff’s official found the key because it had fallen out of the nightstand where Avery hid it, the juror said the latter.
Asked about the hole in the blood vial, about the lack of Halbach’s blood in Avery’s home, and other key pieces of evidence featured in the documentary, the juror declined to comment and again urged people to read the court file to get a better sense of what it was like to be a juror and what jurors actually saw.
"What was presented to us was presented right. Do your digging."
Jessica McBride spent a decade as an investigative, crime, and general assignment reporter for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and is a former City Hall reporter/current columnist for the Waukesha Freeman.
She is the recipient of national and state journalism awards in topics that include short feature writing, investigative journalism, spot news reporting, magazine writing, blogging, web journalism, column writing, and background/interpretive reporting. McBride, a senior journalism lecturer at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, has taught journalism courses since 2000.
Her journalistic and opinion work has also appeared in broadcast, newspaper, magazine, and online formats, including Patch.com, Milwaukee Magazine, Wisconsin Public Radio, El Conquistador Latino newspaper, Investigation Discovery Channel, History Channel, WMCS 1290 AM, WTMJ 620 AM, and Wispolitics.com. She is the recipient of the 2008 UWM Alumni Foundation teaching excellence award for academic staff for her work in media diversity and innovative media formats and is the co-founder of Media Milwaukee.com, the UWM journalism department's award-winning online news site. McBride comes from a long-time Milwaukee journalism family. Her grandparents, Raymond and Marian McBride, were reporters for the Milwaukee Journal and Milwaukee Sentinel.
Her opinions reflect her own not the institution where she works.