The Innocent Killer: A True Story of a Wrongful Conviction and its Astonishing Aftermath

The Innocent Killer: A True Story of a Wrongful Conviction and its Astonishing Aftermath

by Michael Griesbach

ISBN: 9781627223638

Publisher American Bar Association

Published in Law/Criminal Law, Biographies & Memoirs/Memoirs, Biographies & Memoirs/True Crime, Nonfiction/Crime & Criminals, Biographies & Memoirs, Nonfiction

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Book Description

Two years after his exoneration for one crime and poised to reap millions in his wrongful conviction lawsuit, Steven Avery was arrested for murder. The "Innocent Man" had turned into a cold blooded killer .... or had he?

Sample Chapter

News of Teresa’s disappearance had already garnered national media attention, but when it became known that the man suspected of killing her had spent eighteen years in prison for a crime he did not commit, her story reverberated through the Midwest and beyond. It was the first time in the nation’s history when an exonerated person was later accused of murder, and the Deliverance‑like crime scene and grisly details of the murder guaranteed it a national audience.

In what must be one of the show’s strangest episodes ever, Steven Avery called in to the Nancy Grace show on CNN a few days after the human remains in the fire pit were identified as belonging to Teresa Halbach. Still holed up at the family cabin up north, he again proclaimed his innocence, telling America that he was being set up by the Manitowoc County Sher‑ iff’s Department in revenge for his $36 million lawsuit.

“Mr. Avery,” Nancy Grace asked. “Why do you feel that you’re being framed?”

“Because every time I turn around, the county’s out here doing something to me.”

When asked about the tooth fragments and bones that were found in his fire pit, Steve said the salvage yard isn’t usually locked and anyone could just drive right in.

“I worry about it every minute,” he said. “I look out the window, is a squad car here, are they going to pick me up? When are they going to pick me up? When I’m sleeping, are they going to come in? I always have that fear,” he said.

“I think Manitowoc County is trying to set me up real good because they’re taking everything,” he said, “but they don’t seem like they found anything because there ain’t nothing there. They’ve been watching us. They’ve been sitting up by the end of the driveway. But I’m done talking to them.”

Two days later Calumet County District Attorney Ken Kratz charged Steve with first degree intentional homicide and mutilation of a corpse. Kratz was appointed special prosecutor after Mark Rohrer—citing a conflict of interest because of Avery’s pending lawsuit against the county, including its former DA—bowed out. Ken’s a very good prosecutor, but he loves the limelight, so he was more than happy to prosecute the case. Also, Teresa was from Calumet County and Ken had been working with his sheriff’s department since the investigation into her disappearance began.

Dressed in a black‑and‑white striped jail jumpsuit, his wrists handcuffed and attached to a belly belt, Steve was escorted into court by eight uniformed deputies. Judge Patrick Willis set $500,000 cash bail.

In a strange bit of irony, his arrest occurred on the same day the governor was scheduled to sign into law the “Avery Bill” in the same courtroom where he had been wrongfully convicted twenty years earlier. But with news of the bill’s namesake’s arrest, the ceremony was promptly called off and the legis‑ lation was rather blandly renamed the “Criminal Justice Reforms Package.”

Self‑serving proclamations of innocence or not, somewhere along the line, the innocent man had turned into a cold‑blooded killer. Or had he?


Locally, Steven Avery’s arrest for Teresa’s murder wasn’t just a bizarre news story that would capture national attention for a week before Nancy Grace and others in the media moved on to some other salacious crime story. It was the talk of the town, and sometimes the entire state, and it would remain so for months, if not years, ahead.

Everybody, of course, was shocked by the news. Some couldn’t bring themselves to believe that their former hero was a killer. Why would he ruin his life by murdering Teresa Halbach? He was about to become a millionaire—there’s no way he would do such a thing! But a majority assumed he was guilty—why would the police have arrested him if he wasn’t involved?

As a prosecutor, I thought he was probably guilty, too. I’d seen it happen before, how an offender can swing from trying his hardest to stay on the straight and narrow one day to committing a horribly violent crime the next. And given my prior obsession with Steve’s wrongful conviction, I was more familiar than most with his sordid past, going all the way back to when he was a juvenile.

But on the other hand, I had personal contact with him on two separate occasions since his release from prison, and in neither instance did it seem like he was capable of committing such a heinous crime.

The first time I saw him was in connection with the arrest of his then‑newfound girlfriend, Carla Schwartz, for drunken driving. The case came up for trial almost a year after the incident, and Steve was the star witness for the defense.


Steve and I crossed paths again a few weeks later when I was deposed in his $36 million lawsuit against the county. He was seated right next to me and we nodded to each other when I walked in and did the same when I left. He sat politely and listened attentively as the lawyers asked their questions and I did my best to answer.

There was nothing about his appearance on either occasion to suggest that his sexual deviance—which was so evident when he was younger— was about to explode. On the contrary, his demeanor both times was non‑threatening and even calm.


Excerpted from "The Innocent Killer: A True Story of a Wrongful Conviction and its Astonishing Aftermath" by Michael Griesbach. Copyright © 2014 by Michael Griesbach. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
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Author Profile

Michael Griesbach

Michael Griesbach

Michael Griesbach is a veteran prosecutor in the state of Wisconsin where the events recounted in his book occurred. He wrote The Innocent Killer as a gripping true crime novel, but also as an expose of a criminal justice system that sometimes miserably fails. The twists and turns of this twenty year true crime saga are the subject matter of "Making a Murderer," a ten-part Netflix documentary airing on December 18, 2015. / Griesbach lives in northeastern Wisconsin with his wife, Jody, and their four children.

View full Profile of Michael Griesbach

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