As the national obsession with the bizarre murder trials of Steven Avery and his young nephew Brendan Dassey continues to grow, new evidence of corruption on the part of the authorities who helped put him away seems to surface daily.
Avery, of course, is the focus of the recent Netflix documentary series Making a Murderer, which covers both his wrongful imprisonment for sexual assault at the age of 23, as well as his arrest and conviction for the murder of Teresa Halbach two decades later.
The filmmakers make a compelling case for why Manitowoc, Wisconsin law enforcement would have incentive to frame Avery and Dassey for Halbach's murder, yet viewers of the series remain deeply divided on the question of whether police and prosecutors would have or even could have perpetrated such a conspiracy.
Avery was on the verge of receiving a $36 million settlement from the county as a result of spending 18 years behind bars for a crime he didn't commit, and Murderer establishes that several prominent local figures harbored intense hatred for Avery.
At one point in the documentary, investigators are shown coaxing a confession out of Dassey - Avery's mentally impaired 16-year-old nephew - apparently for no other reason than it would be easier to convict Avery if they could prove he had an accomplice.
There's too much damning evidence against the Manitowoc law enforcement and judicial systems to recount here, but after viewing the series in its entirety, even stalwart supporters of Avery are left with a number of questions:
For example, if Avery didn't kill Halbach, who did? And with so much at stake, how did Manitowoc officials ensure that the jury would turn in a guilty verdict?
The first of those questions may have been answered yesterday when it was revealed that Steven believes his brothers Chuck and Earl Avery may murdered Halbach, but his theory was buried by the courts for six years.
Earlier today, a shocking new allegation may have revealed the lengths to which prosecutors were willing to go to guarantee a favorable outcome for the state.
According to a report from the website OnMilwaukee.com, a man who frequently volunteered for the Manitowoc Sheriff's Department was chosen to be on Avery's jury despite the obvious conflict of interest.
The site claims that the juror - Carl Wardman - was not just a local with law enforcement ambitions who went on the occasional ride-along, but an "an official and very active volunteer for the Manitowoc County Sheriff’s Department" who worked with deputies at the same time the trial was going on.
To make matters worse, sources say Carl Wardman's son, Chris Wardman, "worked as a Manitowoc County Sheriff’s Department supervisor in the jail during the trial."
Wardman admitted all of this during pre-trial screening, but Avery's defense attorney, Dean Strang, says he was essentially forced to let him through, because at least at six other jurors appeared to be more biased against Avery than Wardman was.
We understand this a complex case with a lot of conflicting evidence, but at this point, it's hard to believe that any reasonable person wouldn't at least have doubts as to whether or not Avery and Dassey committed the crimes of which they've been accuses.