By CARRIE ANTLFINGER
MILWAUKEE (AP) — A Wisconsin man exonerated of rape after serving 18 years in prison, then convicted of helping kill a woman after he was set free filed a lawsuit from prison claiming his civil rights were violated.
Steven Avery was released from prison in 2003 after spending nearly two decades behind bars for a rape he didn’t commit, but in 2007 he was convicted of helping murder 25-year-old photographer Teresa Halbach.
Avery, 49, filed the civil rights complaint himself Nov. 30 in federal court in Milwaukee. He claims investigators relied on a faulty search warrant when they searched his Manitowoc County home in 2005. He’s asking for $150,000 in punitive damages.
Avery said probable cause was not established in a sworn statement filed to support the search warrant, which he said had language that reflected “that of a fishing expedition.” A book case was seized Dec. 11, 2005, and Avery said there was no reason given as to why it was taken. He also claimed there was no evidence the statement was seen by the issuing judge.
He claimed his 4th amendment rights to be free of unreasonable search and seizure were violated.
Named in the complaint were former Calumet County District Attorney Ken Kratz, and investigator John Dedering, Sgt. William Tyson, deputy Dan Kucharski, all of the Calumet County sheriff’s department.
Calumet County corporation counsel Dawn Klockow said Thursday she has not yet been served with the complaint and won’t comment on pending litigation. Kratz could not be reached on his office phone and an email seeking comment was not immediately returned Thursday.
Beside the $150,000 in punitive damages, Avery also asked for nominal damages in an amount not less than $1 for every item illegally taken and any attorney and court costs that may accrue.
During the trial in 2007, an investigator testified that a key to Halbach’s vehicle, with Avery’s DNA on it, was found on Avery’s bedroom floor after another investigator shook the bookcase. Avery’s attorneys at the time claimed the investigator planted the key. Kucharski supervised the search. The bookcase seizure came after the preliminary hearing and investigators at the time said it was needed to prove the key was hidden there.
Halbach disappeared Oct. 31, 2005, after going to the yard in rural Manitowoc County to photograph a minivan that Avery’s sister had for sale through Auto Trader Magazine.
The jury convicted Avery of first-degree intentional homicide and being a felon in possession of a firearm and sentenced to life in prison.
Two years before Halbach died, Avery was released from prison after serving 18 years for a Manitowoc County rape that DNA analysis showed he did not commit. He later settled a wrongful-conviction lawsuit against the county for $400,000.
This summer, the state appeal’s court denied Avery’s request for a new trial. His lawyer, Suzanne Hagopian, filed a petition Oct. 6 asking the Wisconsin Supreme Court to look at the case, but it has not yet responded.Click here to subscribe to Wisconsin Law Journal today