A juror in the Steven Avery murder case joined Yahoo News and Finance Anchor Bianna Golodryga on “Yahoo News Live” to discuss his doubts in the 2007 conviction of Avery for the murder of 25-year-old Teresa Halbach. The case is at the center of the new Netflix documentary series “Making a Murderer,” which has led to thousands of people signing online petitions asking for the exoneration of Avery and his nephew, also convicted of murdering Halbach.
The juror, Richard Mahler, who was released on the first day of deliberations for personal reasons, told Golodryga: “According to the evidence that I reviewed in the court room the six weeks I was there, it didn’t all add up.”
Mahler said he could understand why another juror is afraid for his safety. Mahler said he feared for his life during the trial and still does now. He told Golodryga that he has been “getting a lot of threats on social media.”
Mahler cited a number of pieces of evidence that led him to believe that Avery was innocent. First, there was the vial of Avery’s blood that was tampered with. “I don’t think that a normal person could walk into that clerk of courts office and mess with that vial,” he said. “It had to be someone who had access to that room.” Then there was the key from Halbach’s car that was found in Avery’s home. “The key didn’t have Teresa’s DNA on it,” Mahler said. “It didn’t make sense to me either.” Finally, he noted, “there was no blood in Steven’s trailer or near the garage or DNA of Teresa’s anywhere to be found.”
Mahler said that when he asked a member of the jury after the trial why they convicted Avery, the juror told him: “Think of all the things he did when he was younger.”
He told Golodryga that he took that comment to mean that Avery’s conviction was based on all of the things he had done when he was younger and not on the evidence in the trial.
In the initial moments in the jury room following the trial, Mahler described a paper ballot vote taken of the jury. “The vote came out seven not guilty, three guilty and two undecided.”
Mahler further described a number of incidents that he found disturbing in the initial hours of deliberation. “I walked into the jury room for the first four hours of deliberation and one of the gentlemen had his arms crossed, and he said to me, ‘He’s guilty as hell.’ And I thought to myself, ‘How can this be? What is wrong with this guy? He’s not even willing to look at the evidence.’”
Mahler also described what happened during the first lunch break of deliberations. He told a fellow juror, “‘Man, I just can’t handle this.’ And he said, ‘Then why don’t you leave?’” Mahler said, “I don’t know if he thought because I was a threat to the guilty verdict or not, but I took that pretty hard too.”
He later got a phone call that his stepdaughter had been in an accident. It was a combination of the family emergency and the comments at lunch and in the jury room that led him to, as he described, “an emotional breakdown.” He told Golodryga, “That’s why I left the jury.”
Mahler said he knew nothing about Avery going into the trial, but he “has learned that a lot of people on the jury had been out to the junkyard or knew Steven in some way.” In other words, he said, he doesn’t believe the jury was impartial.
On the subject of the taped confession of Avery’s nephew, Brendan Dassey, which was excluded from Avery’s trial, he said he later found out that one of the jurors got wind of the Dassey confession during the trial anyway.
Mahler dismissed criticism from the prosecutor in the case, Ken Kratz, that key evidence was left out of the documentary series. He told Golodryga, “It features 98 percent that I saw in court and had questions about.”
Finally, Mahler said, “I feel really sorry for the family. … They lost a beautiful daughter. I feel bad because Steven’s family went through this and a lot of people were hurt in the whole process.”