White House Responds To Petition About ‘Making a Murderer’
If you haven't binge-watched all 10 episodes of the new Netfix series 'Making A Murderer,' go do it now! If you have, you probably ended it with a lot of questions. Questions about our justice system. Questions about if Steven Avery could actually have been the killer. Questions about what really happened to Teresa Halbach.
Those questions led many people to sign a recent Change.Org petition sent to President Obama and Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker. Over 375,000 people attached their names to the petition which said that, "Steven Avery should be exonerated at once by 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."
If you were one of the signers, there's some good news and bad news you need to know. First, the good news: the petition did make it's way to the White House. While many of these are sent daily, for the first time ever the President actually issued a response to this one.
The bad news: the President isn't going to issue a pardon for Steven Avery. Now, it's not because he has questions about his innocence (as many who didn't sign the petition did), it's that he can't. Avery wasn't convicted on federal charges. The president doesn't have the ability to pardon people on state charges, only the Governor can.
Still, the White House had some points to make about the show, the case, ways they are working to improve our criminal justice system, and the petition. Here's the complete response posted by the We The People Team at the White House:
Thank you for signing a Change.org petition on the Teresa Halbach murder case, currently featured on the "Making a Murderer" documentary series. We appreciate your interest in this case.
To best respond to your petition, we should go over what exactly presidential pardoning power entails.
The U.S. Constitution grants the power of clemency to the President:
"The President ... shall have Power to Grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offenses against the United States."
This clemency authority empowers the President to exercise leniency towards persons who have committed federal crimes. 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.
While this case is out of the Administration's purview, President Obama is committed to restoring the sense of fairness at the heart of our justice system. That's why he has granted 184 commutations total -- more than the last five presidents combined -- and has issued 66 pardons over his time in office (https://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2015/12/18/president-obama-has-shortened-sentences-more-people-last-5-presidents-combined).
This Administration has taken a number of important actions to reduce the federal prison population (https://www.bop.gov/about/statistics/population_statistics.jsp) in keeping with the President’s continuing efforts to enhance the fairness and effectiveness of the criminal justice system (https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2015/07/14/fact-sheet-enhancing-fairness-and-effectiveness-criminal-justice-system) at all phases and to better address the vicious cycle of poverty, criminality and incarceration that traps too many Americans and weakens too many communities. These include:
-Signing the Fair Sentencing Act, a bill that reduced the 100-1 sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine, and eliminated the mandatory minimum sentence for simple possession of crack cocaine (https://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2010/08/03/president-obama-signs-fair-sentencing-act).
-The Justice Department's "Smart on Crime" initiative, in which federal prosecutors are concentrating efforts and resources on the worst offenders and avoiding triggering excessive mandatory minimums for low-level, nonviolent drug offenders (http://www.justice.gov/sites/default/files/ag/legacy/2013/08/12/smart-on-crime.pdf).
-Commuting the sentences of dozens of people sentenced under outdated and unfair drug laws (https://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2015/07/13/president-obama-announces-46-commutations-video-address-america-nation-second-chance).
In 2014, President Obama also issued an Executive Order creating a Task Force on 21st Century Policing (https://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2014/12/18/president-obama-creates-task-force-21st-century-policing) that produced a concrete blueprint for cities and towns seeking to put in place new strategies to build trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve while enhancing public safety. (The Task Force’s Final Report is available here: http://www.cops.usdoj.gov/policingtaskforce.)
And he has met with Americans across the country who are working to improve the criminal justice system, from law enforcement officials working to lower crime and incarceration rates, to former prisoners who are earning their second chance. Last summer, he became the first sitting president to visit a federal prison (https://medium.com/@WhiteHouse/behind-the-lens-photographing-the-president-at-a-federal-prison-ba5a5e7f2e8b#.dolmltkxc). And he continues to work with Congress to pass meaningful criminal justice reform that makes the system more cost-effective, fairer, and smarter, while enhancing the ability of law enforcement to keep our communities safe (https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2015/10/17/weekly-address-working-meaningful-criminal-justice-reform).
To view our response to the Teresa Halabach murder case on We The People, click here: https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/response/response-your-petition-teresa-halbach-murder-case
Thanks again for raising your voices. We hope you'll continue to participate on the platform.
-- The We the People Team