Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Murder of Teresa Halbach

Avery Found Guilty

On Sunday, March 18, 2007, a jury found Steven Avery guilty of first-degree intentional homicide and illegal possession of a firearm.  They found him not guilty of the third charge leveled against him, mutilation of a corpse.  Despite his attorney's contention that the police had planted the evidence against him, the jury was unconvinced. 

Steven Avery in Court
Steven Avery in Court

During the trial, forensic anthropologist Dr. Leslie Eisenberg testified that she had found evidence of two gunshot wounds in Teresa Halbach's skull.  Dr. Eisenberg could not, however, determine if the shooting had occurred before or after death.  The prosecution also presented expert testimony regarding a bullet found embedded in the floor of Avery's garage, which contained trace amounts of Teresa Halbach's DNA.  Ballistics tests linked the bullet to the .22 caliber rifle found hanging on the wall in Steven Avery's bedroom.

Bobby Dassey
Bobby Dassey

Avery's nephew, Bobby Dassey—Brendan Dassey's older brother—testified that he saw Halbach walking toward his uncle's trailer at 2:45 PM on Halloween day, 2005.  He also told the jury that he had overheard his uncle joking with a friend about hiding Halbach's body.

Brendan Dassey had confessed to participating in the crime with his uncle but later recanted his confession and refused to testify against Avery, thereby forfeiting a plea deal with the state.

The defense attempted to cast doubt on the prosecution's case by presenting an alternate explanation for the evidence found on Avery's property.   Manitowoc County law-enforcement officers had access to a vial of Avery's blood taken during a review of his 1985 conviction.  Avery's attorneys suggested that the police had planted the blood at the crime scene along with the bullet and Teresa Halbach's car key. Their motive: revenge.  Avery's monetary settlement in his wrongful-conviction suit against Manitowoc County had angered several county deputies, the defense claimed.

Karen Halbach
Karen Halbach

But the jury of six men and six women brought in from Dane County did not buy it. After 20 hours of deliberation, they sent down their verdict. 

When asked how she felt about Avery's conviction, Karen Halbach, Teresa's mother, told a reporter from WISC-ABC television, "I'm happy, but I'm not really that happy.  Teresa's not here."

One of Avery's attorneys, Jerome Buting, said that his client was "obviously disappointed but not despondent.  He's not giving up."

Since Wisconsin does not have the death penalty, he faces a mandatory life sentence.

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