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  Steven Avery jailed for 18 years for a rape he didn't commit.

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Posted on Tue, Oct. 12, 2004

Steven Avery files suit in Milwaukee seeking up to $36 million


Associated Press

MILWAUKEE - Steven Avery said he had mixed feelings about filing a civil lawsuit Tuesday over his wrongful incarceration, saying it felt wonderful but won't make up for the pain he suffered during his 18 years in prison.

"It feels pretty good," he said, but "nothing will replace that."

Avery, of Two Rivers, is seeking up to $36 million in damages after spending 18 years in prison for a rape he didn't commit. He was released from prison on Sept. 11, 2003, after DNA tests exonerated him.

Avery's attorney, Walt Kelly, said the case may take up to 1 1/2 years to resolve.

"I waited long enough," Avery said outside the federal courthouse in Milwaukee, alongside his fiancee. "A little bit more ain't going to bother me."

Avery said if he won, he would buy a new car and build a house, but he was unsure whether he would stay in the Two Rivers area. He said he hopes his case will prompt investigators to look more closely at cases, especially if he gets a big settlement.

"They will probably look twice at it again before they make a decision," Avery said.

The suit is seeking up to $36 million in damages from Manitowoc County and its former sheriff and district attorney, claiming they ignored obvious evidence of the real attacker.

In the lawsuit filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Milwaukee, Avery accuses the defendants of violating his civil and constitutional rights in wrongfully convicting him and imprisoning him.

Former Sheriff Thomas Kocourek of Two Rivers and former District Attorney Denis Vogel of Madison ignored someone who should have been the prime suspect in the rape, the lawsuit says.

The government officials had an "attitude of hostility" toward Avery and his family that tainted how the rape was investigated, the lawsuit says.

Avery was imprisoned after a jury convicted him of sexually assaulting a woman jogger on a Lake Michigan beach in 1985, largely on her eyewitness testimony.

But DNA testing done last year showed Avery, now 42, could not have committed the crime, and the analysis indicated another man serving a 60-year sentence for another sexual assault and kidnapping - Gregory A. Allen - was the assailant.

Avery's lawsuit seeks between $1 million and $18 million in compensatory damages and between $1 million and $18 million for punitive damages.

Messages left at the homes of Kocourek and Vogel were not immediately returned Tuesday.

Manitowoc County Executive Dan Fischer said he had not received the suit but has read recent news articles about it.

"I'd have to say it isn't a big surprise," he said. "We have put our insurance carriers on notice from 1985 so they understand that this is a possibility."

Fischer said the county hopes its insurance would cover any possible settlement. The insurance companies would decide whether to settle the case or go to court, he said.

In the last several years, DNA technology has helped exonerate 151 people across the country, Kelly said. About a dozen of those people have filed lawsuits, and settlements ranged from $800,000 to $15 million, he said.

In October 2001, a federal jury in Chicago awarded James Newsome $15 million - $1 million for each year he was wrongfully imprisoned for the fatal shooting of a Chicago grocer during a 1979 holdup.

Kelly said Avery also would file a claim with the state Claims Board in the next few weeks. State law provides compensation of up to $5,000 for each year someone wrongly convicted was imprisoned, with a cap of $25,000.

Avery said he has good and bad days and is currently not working. He helps at the family's salvage yard.

Avery said he and his fiancee, whom he met after he got out of prison, would probably marry next year.

Posted on Fri, Oct. 22, 2004

Avery wants $1 million in lost wages


Associated Press

MADISON, Wis. A Two Rivers man who spent 18 years in prison for a rape he didn't commit said Thursday the state owes him more than $1 million in lost wages.

Steven Avery filed a petition with the state Claims Board asking for $1.09 million in back wages, retirement benefits and potential promotions he lost when he went to prison in 1985.

The maximum award limit is $25,000, but the board can recommend the Legislature award more.

"They should hurry up and give me what I deserve," Avery said. "I've been waiting long enough."

Avery was a 23-year-old car mechanic in 1985 when he was sentenced to 32 years in prison for raping a woman on a Lake Michigan beach. He was convicted largely on the woman's eyewitness testimony, despite testimony from 16 alibi witnesses.

The Wisconsin Innocence Project, a group of University of Wisconsin-Madison law students, pushed for DNA tests in the case in 2003. The tests showed the actual rapist was another man currently behind bars for another sexual assault and kidnapping.

Avery was released from prison in September 2003.

But Avery, now 42, has struggled to get by since then, living in an ice shanty at times and fighting with family members. He filed a lawsuit last week seeking $36 million in damages from Manitowoc County, arguing officials there ignored evidence that pointed to the real attacker.

Dressed in jeans, a T-shirt and a Dodge Motorsports racing jacket, Avery told reporters at a news conference Thursday that he lives in a trailer and works part-time at his brother's salvage yard.

He hasn't looked for other work, saying he doesn't feel he's ready, but he needs food, better clothes and furniture.

"Mostly, it's been day-to-day," Avery said.

The claim includes calculations by UW-Madison business school dean James Hickman. It says Avery is entitled to:

$799,000 in lost wages, adjusted to 2004 dollars.

$79,900 in retirement funds he never had a chance to put away.

$190,000 he would have made had he had a chance to advance in his job, including a chance to co-own the salvage yard. While Avery was in prison, the claim said, his father passed it on to Avery's brothers.

$28,300 in lost Social Security benefits.

The claim asks for $38,791 for Avery's post-conviction attorneys' fees. It also asks the board to set aside its usual practice of waiting until other remedies are exhausted such as Avery's lawsuit before taking action.

UW-Madison law professor Keith Findley said he hopes the board will decide to give Avery the $25,000 maximum immediately.

Anything more is up to the Legislature. According to state statutes, the board can issue a report specifying a different amount to the chief clerks in the Assembly and Senate.

Manitowoc County District Attorney Mark Rohrer didn't immediately return a message The Associated Press left at his office Thursday. Claims Board chairman Alan Lee said he hadn't seen the claim and declined to comment.

Avery has support among several lawmakers, however. State Rep. Mark Gundrum, R-New Berlin, leads a task force investigating flaws in the state criminal justice system in the wake of Avery's release.

Gundrum said the $25,000 limit is "outrageously" low in Avery's case, but he thinks Avery should pay back whatever the state gives him beyond that with any winnings from his lawsuit, since Manitowoc County officials put him in prison.

"It's not the state taxpayers who should be on the hook for his wrong conviction," Gundrum said.

Wrongly Imprisoned Man Wants $1 Million For Lost Wages State Limits Awards To $25K, But Can Recommend Exception

POSTED: 5:14 pm EDT October 21, 2004 UPDATED: 5:18 pm EDT October 21, 2004

MADISON, Wis. -- Steven Avery is asking the state to compensate him for lost wages and benefits after spending 18 years behind bars for a crime he didn't commit.

The Manitowoc County man filed a claim against the state Thursday, asking for more than a $1 million in economic damages.

Avery's claim is based on calculations by a vocational consultant and U-W Madison business professor on lost wages, retirement savings and Social Security benefits.

The state Claims Board award limit is $25,000, but the board can make a recommendation to the state Legislature to give more to Avery.

Last week, Avery filed a civil lawsuit in federal court seeking $36 million in damages from Manitowoc County and its former sheriff and district attorney. Avery says they ignored obvious evidence leading to the man who really committed the sexual assault for which he was convicted.

Wrongly Convicted Wisconsin Man Arrives Home UW-Law School Project Convinced Judge To Do DNA Testing

POSTED: 9:24 a.m. EDT September 11, 2003 UPDATED: 7:16 p.m. EDT September 11, 2003

A Wisconsin man, wrongly convicted of sexually assaulting a woman on a beach in Manitowoc County in 1985, took his first breath of freedom in 18 years Thursday morning.


Steve Avery Talks After Arriving Home

Steven Avery, 43, left the Stanley Correctional Institution in Chippewa County with his daughter Jennifer and his sister at his side.

Jennifer said she's excited her dad is no longer behind bars and looks forward to getting to know him.

He was sentenced to 32 years in prison on charges of first-degree sexual assault, attempted murder and false imprisonment in an attack on a woman jogger.

His family and friends all testified Avery was somewhere else that day, but he was convicted based almost entirely on one eyewitness' testimony.

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His freedom thanks to the innocence project at University of Wisconsin's law school who convinced a judge to allow DNA testing of hairs found at the crime scene.

Project co-director Keith Findley said the genetic material DNA taken from the victim was tested at the state crime lab and it matched that of another man.

Manitowoc County Circuit Judge Fred Hazlewood handled Avery's case in 1985.

He ruled Avery should be released from prison.

"I was just about crying. I had to laugh Someone took 18, 18.5 years away from this family. But he will be back," Avery's brother, Chuck Avery, said.

The tests point to Gregory Allen as the guilty party. He's currently serving a 60-year prison sentence for a 1995 sexual assault.

Avery said now he wants to eat plenty of good food and sleep on a nice bed.

Victim's Reaction

The victim who helped send the wrong man to prison in a 1985 Manitowoc County assault said she wishes she could give back the 18 years the man spent in prison.

The woman spoke through her attorney at the time, Janine Geske, a former state Supreme Court justice.

Geske said it's a tragedy for both Avery and the victim. She said the woman has to relive the beating and sexual assault. The victim picked Avery out of a lineup after he was arrested in Manitowoc County.

Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press contributed to this report. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed