The White House Issues Decision Maker Response to Steven Avery Petition

On Thursday, the White House issued a Decision Maker response to the petition to pardon Steven Avery, the subject of Netflix’s Making a Murderer who is serving a life sentence for the 2005 murder of Teresa Halbach. This is the White House’s first official Decision Maker response on Change.org.

Its response details which crimes can be pardoned by the president -- federal crimes only -- so "a pardon in this case would need to be issued at the state level by the appropriate authorities." The response also discusses the steps President Obama has taken to “restor[e] the sense of fairness at the heart of our justice system.” You can read the full White House response here.

This marks a major moment in the relationship between citizens and government, opening a new dialogue with the executive branch, which is frequently named as the Decision Maker on Change.org petitions.

“Technology has made it easier than ever to raise one’s voice, but direct engagement between citizens and government through tools like Change.org's Decision Maker feature is a powerful reminder about the potential for the internet to improve democracy around the world,” said Tyler Rattray, US External Affairs at Change.org.

Response to the petition was spurred by the mass of support it has garnered over the last week. Thanks to coverage in major media outlets and chatter on social media, its signature count grew by 250% from Sunday to Thursday, now totaling more than 350,000.  

And the petition to pardon Steve Avery isn’t just being signed in the U.S.. People in 144 countries have signed it, making it something of a global sensation.  

Read more about the growth of Seyedian’s petition

On Thursday, petition starter Michael Seyedian wrote an op-ed for The Huffington Post explaining why he decided to take action on behalf of Steven Avery, a man he has never met.

“For me, the documentary started out as casual entertainment. As it progressed I found myself getting more and more outraged,” wrote Seyedian. “I felt that I was witnessing a record of abuse, a perfect storm of injustice.”

Making a Murderer is a 10-part Netflix documentary that follows the story of Avery, who was convicted of sexual assault, imprisoned for 18 years, and exonerated by DNA evidence, only to be arrested and convicted two years later for the murder of Teresa Halbach.

Filmed by Moira Demos and Laura Ricciardi over 10 years, the series questions Avery’s two convictions and examines allegations of police and prosecutorial misconduct.

 

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