The Murder of Teresa Halbach
'That Would Be Too Hard'
On November 15, 2005, Steven Avery was charged with first-degree intentional homicide in the death of Teresa Halbach and mutilating a corpse. Avery appeared before Manitowoc County Circuit Judge Patrick Willis, wearing a black-and-white horizontally striped jumpsuit, his wrists handcuffed and attached to a belly belt. Eight uniformed deputies escorted him into court. During the hearing, Judge Willis set bail at $500,000. It was decided that Avery's case will be tried in Manitowoc County because authorities believe that the murder was committed in that county, but the prosecutors will be from Calumet County because the case was investigated by Calumet deputies and Avery has a civil case pending against Manitowoc.
Though Avery family members continue to insist that the DNA evidence was planted in Halbach's car and in Steven Avery's home, Calumet County District Attorney Ken Kratz said that such allegations are "absurd," adding that someone would need a vial of Avery's perspiration to pull that off.
"It is no longer a question, at least in my mind as special prosecutor in this case, who is responsible for the death of Teresa Halbach," Kratz said.
After the murder charge was filed against Avery, the University of Wisconsin-based Innocence Project was inundated with phone calls and e-mails supporting their mission to exonerate people who have been wrongly imprisoned. However, 80% of those who contacted them believed that Steven Avery should never have been released from prison. Co-director of the Innocence Project Keith Findley pointed out to the Associated Press that of the 163 inmates nationwide cleared of crimes through DNA evidence, Avery is the only one to have been subsequently charged with a serious crime.
If Avery is ultimately found guilty of the charges against him, he could be sentenced to life imprisonment. Wisconsin does not have the death penalty.
Steven Avery is currently incarcerated at the Calumet County Jail. His next court appearance is scheduled for January 17, 2006, at which time he plans to enter not guilty pleas. He maintains that he's innocent and feels that he's being railroaded again.
Whoever killed Teresa Halbach "ain't got a right mind," he told the Associated Press. "There's no way I could kill somebody," he said. "That would be too hard."