A juror who was ultimately dismissed from the murder trial of Making a Murderer subject Steven Avery tells PEOPLE that two jurors who convicted Avery were related to Manitowoc County employees.
“After the trial, I found out…[one juror] was the father of a Manitowoc County Sheriff’s deputy,” the dismissed juror, Richard Mahler, says. “Another juror, his wife works for the Manitowoc County Clerk’s Office.”
He adds: “I thought to myself, they shouldn’t have been on the jury. That was a conflict of interest.”
Mahler was ultimately excused from the trial after his daughter got into a car accident, but not before he spent more than four hours deliberating with the jury. Early on, the jurors took a vote: seven innocent, three guilty and two undecided.
Mahler still doesn’t know how the jury ultimately ended up voting to unanimously convict Avery of murder. “I think about that every day,” he says.
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Dismissed Juror: ‘He Seemed Like He Was Honestly Innocent’
Making a Murderer examines the twist-filled case of Avery, a Wisconsin man who was released from prison after being exonerated for sexual assault only to be arrested again and convicted for the murder of Teresa Halbach, a young photographer.
Avery has maintained his innocence and claims that he was framed in retribution for filing a $36 million lawsuit against Manitowoc County and authorities.
For his part, Mahler believes Avery is innocent and wishes that he’d stayed on the jury.
“He seemed like he had a good head on his shoulders,” says Mahler, who watched Avery closely throughout the trial. “He just sat there and listened contently. I didn’t see him once or hardly at all put his head down like, ‘Poor me.’ He seemed like he was honestly innocent.”
After the trial ended, Mahler met up with another juror to go to a concert. While there, he asked the man why the jury had come up with a guilty verdict. “And his statement was, ‘Just think of all those things he did when he was younger,’ ” says Mahler. “I thought to myself, ‘Are you serious?’
“This trial was supposed to be based on the evidence that was presented to us,” he continues. “You’re telling us that you convicted him based on what he did when he was younger. I did a lot of bad things when I was younger. That doesn’t mean I deserve to be locked up for life.”
Adds Mahler: “Since the trial ended, I’ve had a hard time sleeping over it because of that feeling of innocence. I keep going over and over it. It’s still in the back of my head. What if I would’ve stayed?”