The ten-part Netflix docuseries Making a Murderer chronicles the convictions of Steven Avery.
Majority of the coverage in the documentary revolves around Avery’s second case, the murder of 25-year-old photographer Teresa Halbach. There has been significant evidence in the case suggesting that someone else killed the victim. However, the state of Wisconsin denied the defense based on the Denny rule from arguing that a third party, and not Avery and his nephew Brendan Dassey, had committed the crime.
Avery was convicted for the murder of Halbach in 2007. He had previously spent 18 years in prison on a sexual assault charge until DNA evidence proved he had not committed the crime.
In proving third-party liability at trial, a defendant has to show concrete evidence that provides a direct link between the third party and the crime, according to Wisconsin Law Journal. This takes birth from a 1984 Wisconsin Supreme Court ruling in the case of State v. Denny.
Under the case, a legitimate tendency test is required by the defendant to claim a third-party liability. According to a Reddit user, for this to happen the defense has to provide motive, opportunity and evidence that connects the third party to the crime.
In his previous conviction, a sexual assault charge, Avery had referred to newly discovered evidence to form the basis of his appeal. Testing found out that the DNA collected from scrapings found under the fingernails of the victim did not belong to either the victim or Avery.
Moreover, Avery contended that his new evidence of third party liability should have considered his 16 alibi witnesses and the description of the perpetrator given by the victim herself.
The court denied Avery’s appeal on the basis on Denny. The court said it wasn’t enough “that Avery could point to another suspect and also demonstrate that DNA from the victim did not belong to her or Avery.” With this evidence that suggested third party liability, the court said that, at best, it provided “a possible ground of suspicion against another person.”