People are super pissed about the fate of Steven Avery after watching the Netflix documentary Making a Murderer, and when people are mad on the Internet, it’s only a matter of time before they begin to practice a very specific kind of misguided, misdirected activism. In this case, rather than commit themselves to the cause of reforming America’s screwy judicial system, they decided to write petitions. Two of them, in fact.
The first, at Change.org, asks for a full presidential pardon for Avery, who is currently serving time for the 2005 murder of Teresa Halbach:
There is a documentary series on Netflix called “Making a Murderer.” After viewing it, I am outraged with the injustices which have been allowed to compound and left unchecked in the case of Steven Avery of Manitowoc County in Wisconsin, U.S.A. Avery’s unconstitutional mistreatment at the hands of corrupt local law enforcement is completely unacceptable and is an abomination of due process.
Steven Avery should be exonerated at once by presidential pardon, and the Manitowoc County officials complicit in his two false imprisonments should be held accountable to the highest extent of the U.S. criminal and civil justice systems.
That petition has garnered more than 350,000 signatures, but the more relevant petition for our discussion was submitted to the official White House page. The message is largely the same: “Steven Avery and Brendan Dassey should be given a full pardon by President Obama for their wrongful conviction in the connection to the murder of Teresa Halbach.”
In this case, only 100,000 signatures are needed before the White House issues an official response, and the petitioneers exceeded that number yesterday.
True to its policy, the White House responded. The full statement is here, but the meat of the matter can be summed up in two paragraphs:
Under the Constitution, only federal criminal convictions, such as those adjudicated in the United States District Courts, may be pardoned by the President. In addition, the President’s pardon power extends to convictions adjudicated in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia and military court-martial proceedings. However, the President cannot pardon a state criminal offense.
Since Steven Avery and Brendan Dassey are both state prisoners, the President cannot pardon them. A pardon in this case would need to be issued at the state level by the appropriate authorities.
That’s a pretty polite way to say, “learn the law, idiots.” Obama can’t do a thing since it’s a state crime, so it looks like the Internet’s passion over Avery’s case will be forced to revert to its original outlet: Leaving prosecutor Ken Kratz nasty Yelp reviews.