A Kansas City lawyer and member of the Midwest Innocence Project has joined a new legal team representing murder defendant Steven Avery, whose case has gone viral thanks to the Netflix documentary series “Making a Murderer.”
Tricia Bushnell, the legal director of the regional Innocence Project, is assisting the Illinois-based law firm of Kathleen T. Zellner & Associates, which announced on Friday that it is taking the case.
The law firm said it hopes to add Avery to the firm’s “long list of wrongful conviction exonerations.”
The Zellner law firm claims credit for the exoneration of 16 men, including Ryan Ferguson. He was released from prison in 2013 after a court vacated his conviction in the 2001 murder of Columbia Tribune sports editor Kent Heitholt.
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On Friday, Bushnell confirmed her role in the Avery case but declined to comment on it.
The Zellner law firm said Bushnell would assist the firm in Wisconsin, where Avery was convicted of the 2005 murder of a young photographer.
Bushnell worked for the Wisconsin Innocence Project before moving to the Kansas City office in 2013. While in Wisconsin, she supervised law students in the investigation of innocence cases involving both DNA and non-DNA evidence.
Avery’s story has quickly gained fame across the country in recent weeks.
In 2003, Avery, of Manitowoc County, Wis., was exonerated and released after serving 18 years in prison for a rape he didn’t commit. DNA proved that another man committed the rape. After his exoneration, Avery filed a multimillion-dollar lawsuit against Manitowoc County and its investigators who handled the rape case.
Then, in 2005, a young photographer for an auto trading publication went missing. The disappearance of 25-year-old Teresa Halbach drew even more media attention when it was revealed that one of her last scheduled appointments was to take a picture of a vehicle at a salvage yard operated by Steven Avery and his family.
Avery and his learning-impaired nephew, Brendan Dassey, were convicted in separate trials of Halbach’s murder. Avery is serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole. Dassey is eligible for parole in 2048.