The saga of Steven Avery’s murder conviction continues, 12 years after the brutal murder of freelance photographer Teresa Halbach.

A new motion filed Monday by Avery’s attorney Kathleen Zellner touts new forensic evidence—costing some $200,000—that could free the subject of the Netflix documentary “Making a Murderer,” she claims.

Avery, who served 18 years in prison for a rape he didn’t commit prior to Halbach’s murder, filed a June motion for post-conviction relief. But that motion was denied by the court on Oct. 3. Zellner’s new motion doubles down on the claims of new evidence, asking the court to reconsider the possibility of an evidentiary hearing.

“Current post-conviction counsel is not attempting to solve the murder of Ms. Halbach but simply is showing that evidence existed and has been recently developed that would have met (legal standards),” the filing argues. “If Mr. Avery’s jury had been allowed to hear this evidence, there is reasonable probability that he would have been found not guilty.”

Among the new pieces of evidence:

  • Bullet analysis. A “state-of-the-art” electron microscope test of the bullet found in Avery’s garage shows it could not have been fired through Halbach’s skull, the defense attorneys argue. Wood, but not bone, traces were found on the bullet, according to forensic scientist Christopher Palenik, the expert tapped by counsel. “Rather than granting an evidentiary hearing on this astounding fact, which stands unrefuted, this Court put on its ‘science cap’ and attempted to dispute this new scientific evidence,” the filing states. (However, Halbach’s DNA was found on the bullet fragment.)
  • Hood latch DNA. The defense also cites Karl Reich, another forensic scientist, who did not rule out Avery’s touch DNA being in the mixture on the latch of the hood of Halbach’s car. Using RSID tests, Reich ruled out that the genetic profile was left behind by Avery’s sweat—but maintained it could have come from touch DNA. However, the defense claims there was so much Avery DNA (1.9 nanograms, according to the state crime laboratory) that he would have had to have touched the latch 90 times.
  • Key DNA. The sub-key to Halbach’s car had a copious amount of DNA. Avery and his attorneys claim someone must have stolen his toothbrush and planted the genetic material from its bristles on the key prior to police collecting it as evidence.
  • Witness testimony. Bobby Dassey and Scott Tadych testified as to the circumstances of Oct. 31, 2005, which established their alibis. Bobby Dassey said he last saw Halbach walking toward Avery’s trailer—and later was asked by Avery if he wanted to help get rid of a body. But Avery and his attorneys claim both witnesses’ stories do not match up with the timeline.
  • Digital forensics. Additionally, the computer used by Bobby Dassey (the nephew of Avery who lived on the property, and who is the brother of Brendan Dassey, who was also convicted in the Halbach slaying) was analyzed by a digital forensic expert. That deep dive into the hard drive produced pictures of Halbach, violent pornography and images of the corpses of young females, the filing argues.
  • Halbach’s car. The defense contends they have a witness who saw the 10 episodes of “Making a Murderer” in January 2016, weeks after it was released—and recalls telling one of the sheriff’s officers shown in the documentary that Halbach’s car was seen located off the Avery property days after Halbach was believed to have been slain.
  • Ineffective counsel. The filing also argues that previous attorneys had not pursued the Bobby Dassey testimony appropriately, since an alternative theory of the murder implied he was a person of interest, according to the court papers. (The first trial attorneys stated they had never interviewed Bobby Dassey.) The pro-se part of Avery’s defense was also problematic, since he “lacked the ability to draft a pro-se motion advancing even arguable meritorious issues,” it adds.
  • The ex-boyfriend. Ryan Hillegas, Halbach’s former boyfriend, was in possession of Halbach’s day planner after the murder, potentially linking him to the crime scene, the defense argues. 
In this March 13, 2007 file photo, Steven Avery listens to testimony in the courtroom at the Calumet County Courthouse in Chilton, Wisconsin. (Photo: AP/Morry Gash, Pool, File)

“The law firm of Kathleen T. Zellner and Assoc. P.C. has expended a vast amount of resources, in excess of two hundred thousand dollars, to re-investigate the case, hire experts, and conduct additional testing,” the filing argues. “It is beyond question that My. Avery, who is indigent, would be unable to fund this investigation and hire experts to perform testing from the confines of his prison cell.

“To hold otherwise would suggest a departure from reality,” the motions adds. 

Avery was convicted in 2007 of first-degree murder of the 25-year-old Halbach in Manitowoc County, Wisconsin. Halbach was last seen on Oct. 31, 2005. Her incinerated bones were discovered in a burn pit near Avery’s home and her RAV-4 was found at the auto salvage yard owned by the Avery family. (The car had drops of Avery’s blood which were previously scrutinized by defense attorneys for hints of a chemical preservative indicating they had been planted there; those arguments were dismissed by the court.) Halbach had driven to the auto salvage to photograph a car Avery’s sister was planning to sell in AutoTrader magazine.

Avery and his then-16-year-old nephew Brendan Dassey were both convicted, partly based on Dassey’s confession of rape, mutilation and murder. But Dassey’s conviction was overturned in 2016 after the mentally challenged teenager’s confession was determined by a judge to be unconstitutionally coerced. However, he remains in prison.

Manitowoc County authorities have consistently disputed the presentation of the Avery case as seen in “Making a Murderer,” which won a string of awards including four Primetime Emmys. 

Forensic Magazine staff writer Laura French contributed to this report