Last updated: July 08. 2014 12:50PM - 72 Views
By Jeremy Wallace



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According to the Sheboygan Press: Book about Avery contains valuable lessons


Those who try to solve crimes have a responsibility to conduct thorough investigations, reach reasonable conclusions and arrest the right suspect. They have a sworn duty to get it right.


That is the ideal world, but we live in the real one where that doesn’t always happen. One of the more egregious examples of that occurred in the Lakeshore area during the decades-long saga of Steven Avery. He spent 18 years in prison after being wrongfully convicted in 1985 of raping a woman on a Two Rivers beach. Two years after his release from prison, Avery and his nephew, Brendan Dassey, were convicted of killing Teresa Halbach, a local photographer. Both are serving life prison sentences.


That is the thumbnail version of the Avery case, but questions remain. A number of them are raised in a book called “The Innocent Killer,” by Manitowoc County Assistant District Attorney Michael Griesbach. The book will be released by the American Bar Association on Aug. 7, and is slightly different from Griesbach’s self-published tome, “Unreasonable Inferences,” about the Avery case.


One of the unsolved mysteries is whether Halbach would be alive today if Avery had not spent nearly two decades in prison for something he didn’t do. Griesbach suggests she would, indicating the prison time exacerbated Avery’s “sociopathic tendencies.”


That seems like a stretch because predicting human behavior — based on past experiences — is so inexact that it comes nowhere near being a science.


Griesbach would better serve readers by avoiding such speculation and concentrating on the new book’s stated intent.


“If anything can come from the whole story (it) is that the criminal justice system can learn something from it,” Griesbach said.


Subjects like the potential unreliability of suspect lineups, the danger of jumping to conclusions without enough evidence or targeting “suspects” based on their past actions all jump out from the pages of Griesbach’s book. It provides those and other valuable lessons, particularly for the law enforcement community.


Griesbach also suggested, in a 2011 state bar magazine article, that the prosecutor in the Avery rape case and the Manitowoc County sheriff at the time had “moral shortcomings.” That is also highly charged language that Griesbach should avoid in the future when talking about his book or the Avery case. It goes beyond saying that the investigators were lax in performing their duties into the slippery slope of suggesting they did so purposefully.


Griesbach, who became involved in the cases at the stage where Avery was exonerated, also is not making any friends with the Halbach family with his new book. They don’t want the additional publicity.


“Violence doesn’t have to be made into entertainment, especially when additional undue harm is caused toward those who were victimized in the first place,” Teresa Halbach’s brother, Michael Halbach, told the Associated Press by email.


It is difficult to gauge how much money Griesbach’s book will make.


The case once possessed national appeal and was all the rage on news talk shows when Avery was convicted a second time. That shine has faded, however, and the book likely will appeal more to regional and specialized audiences.


Griesbach should consider donating at least a portion of the proceeds from his book to an organization that advocates for crime victims and their families. That would help allay his stated fear of negatively affecting the Halbach family.

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