White House responds to 'Making a Murderer' petition

The White House on Thursday responded to a petition asking President Obama to pardon “Making a Murderer” subjects Steven Avery and Brendan Dassey, but the answer isn’t what the signers want to hear.

Obama’s team reiterated the president can only pardon or commute the sentences of those convicted of federal crimes. Both men were charged and convicted of murder under Wisconsin law.

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“This clemency authority empowers the president to exercise leniency towards persons who have committed federal crimes,” The White House explained in its response.

“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.”

The petition was created on Dec. 20, just days after the Netflix documentary series examining the murder of Teresa Halbach began to air. Like the documentary itself, it has attracted widespread attention: Almost 130,000 people have signed it since it was created.

Avery, the series’s central figure, was convicted in 2007 of Halbach's murder and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

He has argued that local police sought to frame him for Halbach's disappearance because he had a pending civil case against Manitowoc County, Wis., for a previous false conviction on rape charges. Avery had spent 18 years in prison before being released in 2003.