For the first time, the Kansas City attorney representing Steven Avery is talking about his controversial murder case that millions have seen on Netflix’s Making a Murderer.
Tricia Bushnell of the Midwest Innocence Project talked to 41 Action News about joining Avery’s legal team and preparing to file an appeal soon to try to free him from prison.
“It’s very clear - his innocence, in all of the information that's been out there in the public,” said Bushnell.
Before joining the Midwest Innocence Project as its legal director, Bushnell worked in Wisconsin and still holds a license to practice law there - the same state where Avery is serving a life sentence for murder.
Avery wrongly convicted
“This case in particular is very difficult for folks to understand because it happened twice,” Bushnell said.
Avery already spent 18 years in prison for a rape that DNA later proved he didn't commit. The Netflix documentary Making a Murderer questions why the same authorities Avery sued for wrongly imprisoning him of rape, later convicted him of murder.
“We are working to find the new evidence that proves his innocence,” said Bushnell.
Famous legal team
Zellner helped free Ryan Ferguson of Columbia, Missouri, in 2013 from his wrongful murder conviction.
If you think we are just tweeting...think again. A tsunami of new evidence is on the way. @MakingAMurderer
— Kathleen Zellner (@ZellnerLaw) July 5, 2016
Zellner has previously tweeted:
All day re-tracing TH steps.No doubt she left Avery property alive.All roads lead to one door & it's not Steven Avery's.#MakingAMurderer
— Kathleen Zellner (@ZellnerLaw) April 9, 2016
— Kathleen Zellner (@ZellnerLaw) March 6, 2016
An appeal on the way
“We are feeling very confident that we are collecting all those parts to present,” Bushnell said.
While she can’t give specifics about Avery’s case, Bushnell told 41 Action News she’s preparing to file an appeal next month.
Similar case in Missouri
Bushnell is also working on a similar murder case in Missouri that also involves police pressuring a witness.
“They came to her and said, ‘Behind the door is a bad man, and if you don't pick the bad man, he’ll go free,’” Bushnell said.
Rodney Lincoln is still in prison based on that testimony from a child who watched her mother die and survived the 1982 attack herself.
“The victim has now realized that it was not Mr. Lincoln who was there. She has recanted that identification and she wants him out,” said Bushnell.
Lincoln lost a court appeal in June, even though DNA testing has proved a hair from the murder scene in St. Louis is not his.
“There’s literally not a single piece of evidence left to convict him or even suggest him as a suspect. That’s what's even more interesting. He had an alibi,” Bushnell said.
Other wrongful convictions
It’s just one of the cases Bushnell and Midwest Innocence Project are investigating in five states: Missouri, Kansas, Iowa, Nebraska and Arkansas.
“There are a lot of these cases. There are a lot of people waiting for help,” Bushnell said.
Midwest Innocence Project has 600 cases on its waiting list, but not enough money to investigate them. The not-for-profit relies entirely on donations to investigate wrongful convictions.
“We need money - to test things, to get experts,” Bushnell said.
Freedom takes time
It can take an average of seven to 10 years to free an innocent person from prison. Midwest Innocence Project and its partners worked for more than a decade on the case of Floyd Bledsoe of Oskaloosa, Kansas, until a judge exonerated Bledsoe in December.
“It’s a slow process, it’s a process that favors lawyers, and it’s a process that favors finality over fairness. When someone’s convicted, the courts care about it being done,” Bushnell said.
Midwest Innocence Project took on Lincoln’s case in 2005. Just like in Avery’s case, a right to a speedy trial doesn't mean a right to a speedy exoneration.
Patrick Fazio can be reached at email@example.com.