The Truth Behind Making a Murderer: “Steven Avery is GUILTY”

Michael Griesbach
Michael Griesbach helped clear Steven Avery of his original rape conviction in 2003

Real Crime spoke with Assisstant District Attorney Michael Griesbach, who was seen at the beginning of hit Netflix TV series Making a Murderer defending Avery as DNA exonerated him from the 1985 conviction. His book, The Innocent Killer is Griesbach’s take on the murder for which he believes Avery is guilty.

Originally you worked to free Avery in 2003 for rape and attempted murder. What made you change your mind years later – that he could actually be guilty of such crimes in a different case?

The way I look at things is every instance, every crime, every investigation has to rise or fall on its own facts, and the first one in 1985, there was no doubt – if you look at the facts – that Steven Avery was innocent. He was screwed over by the sheriff and the district attorney way back when – this was a really nasty wrongful conviction. It wasn’t just an accident; it was beyond negligence.

It was pretty clear early on in the investigation that they knew, or at the very least recklessly ignored, the fact that Steven Avery was innocent. But it doesn’t mean that Steven Avery hasn’t, prior to that, done some serious stuff and had a devious and sexually deviant propensity that I think Making A Murderer really minimalised. So when I get to the murder in terms of writing the book, I look at it and I look at the evidence as best I can.

I think it is absolutely clear from the evidence that Steven Avery is guilty. That’s a judgement call that you have to make, and I think that people have been making that judgement call based only upon the documentary, which I and many others view as a pretty one-sided presentation of facts.

What evidence in Avery’s case should fans be aware of that wasn’t explored in depth in the series?

The bullet that was found in the garage. The documentary suggests that Manitowoc Police were the ones to find it and in fact they weren’t – it was police from another jurisdiction. The documentary zoomed in on the evidence transmittal form with Manitowoc county cops, which is just paperwork essentially. If you look at the trial transcript and police report, it’s clear that it is police from a different jurisdiction that found it. So what does that mean? Well, there’s a bullet with the victim’s DNA on it found right in his garage, which is where Brendan Dassey says Steven shot Teresa. That’s pretty damning evidence.

There are also things like Steven’s background and the incident when he rammed his vehicle into Sandra Morris’s vehicle. The documentary made it sound like it had nothing to do with sexual deviancy, sort of like he’s the victim getting back at her for spreading rumours. It’s pretty clear she didn’t like him, and I’m not saying there’s not that side of the story, but what they left out seems to be hugely relevant. Steven, for weeks or months, had been watching her though a pair of binoculars, peering down the road when she would get into the car early in the morning and would sexually gratify himself as she would drive by. He’d even run into the road naked before her. This was one messed up person – at least in some ways – prior to the wrongful conviction, and to make him the victim is really disingenuous, I thought.

It seems to me they [the documentary makers, Laura Ricciardi and Moira Demos] could have included some of the other stuff, such as Steven telling a prison inmate that when he gets out he has ‘plans’ to torture and kill women, and some kind of drawing he had done of a torture device and a pretty disturbing mind set that they never mentioned.


Is there anything else put forward in the series in relation to the people that worked on the case that you feel was misconstrued?

The portrayal of Steven: Steven Avery, like everyone, is a complicated person. He’s not all bad or all evil or all good, but I think there’s a lot more evil there than there is good. It’s sort of a Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde thing going on there, and I think they ignored the Mr Hyde part. If at any point they did mis-portray, I think it would be Andy Colborn and Jim Lenk in terms of their role in this case. Back in 1995, when Colborn received the call from Green Bay Police Department saying that this guy is saying he raped Penny Beernsten, attempted her murder and that Manitowoc Police has somebody else in prison for it, he was just a young corrections officer in the jail. He wasn’t a police officer and he did exactly what he should. He sent the message up the chain of command and my understanding is that it was sent further up the chain of command to Manitowoc County Sheriff Tom Kocourek. It was him that sent the message back down of “nope we got our guy, so here”.

Making A Murderer is attacking Andy Colborn for doing what he should have, so that’s a mischaracterisation. Frankly, some people look better on a witness stand in that kind of setting than other people do, and Andy looked nervous and defensive, but boy, it’s a high-pressure situation. Some people can handle that type of courtroom pressure better than others, and by editing, they took the instances where he looked the most uncomfortable and presented what they wanted to present.

How did it feel to come to Manitowoc County Police Department in time for Avery’s exoneration, to then see him convicted again?

I was relieved, because if you firmly believe he did it – and I do – then his acquittal would have been a horrible thing. First, with the Halbach family, if Steven really is the killer – and I believe he is – to have him found not guilty would be tough for them and a dangerous person would be out there potentially free to harm somebody else. And then second for the criminal justice system.

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