Two threats were made on Wednesday night against a Wisconsin sheriff’s office by two callers, one who made an apparent reference to "getting justice for Steven" in what officials say was a reference to Steven Avery, the man at the center of the “Making a Murderer” documentary.
The Manitowoc Police Department said in a statement that a male caller made the threat around 6:40 p.m. Wednesday, warning of bombs inside the Manitowoc County sheriff's office building and a vehicle in the parking lot "packed with explosives."
A second "very similar" threat was received about 20 minutes later, but the details behind the intentions of both threats are still unclear.
The Manitowoc County Sheriff's Office has been in the national limelight thanks to the release of Netflix's popular documentary series, "Making a Murderer." The program focuses on the trial and conviction of Manitowoc County residents Steven Avery and Brendan Dassey for the 2005 murder of Teresa Halbach.
The series examines whether Avery, who was convicted of killing Halbach, a freelance photographer, in 2005, was treated fairly, and suggests the possibility that Manitowoc County sheriff's deputies planted evidence in the case, a claim authorities have denied.
Avery had previously been exonerated by DNA evidence after serving 18 years in jail for a 1985 sexual assault case, also handled by the sheriff’s department in Manitowoc County. Avery’s nephew, Brendan Dassey, was also convicted in the same case.
Last week, protesters gathered at Manitowoc in support of Avery and Dassey, whom they believe were wrongly convicted for the murder of Halbach.
“Our goal is to kind of just show our support and that we believe that they are innocent and they do deserve another trial, and we just really want the world to know that,” said Megan Prather, a protester from Chicago, according to WBAY-TV.
“Protest in the long run can influence public opinion, which can influence how the court rules in the future,” Jordan Turner, another protester, added.
A Change.org petition calling for Avery to be pardoned has garnered more than 493,000 supporters, while a petition to the White House had nearly 130,000 supporters. The White House responded to the petition last month, saying that the president doesn’t have the jurisdiction to pardon state prisoners.
Many other supporters of Avery have taken to Twitter, challenging the justice system with popular hashtags, #Makingamurderer #FreeStevenAvery.
The spotlight on Manitowoc County’s justice system comes amid a concerning report showing that 149 people in 2015 were exonerated in the United States for crimes they didn't commit, a record number.
According to the report, 40 percent of the 2015 exonerations involved official misconduct, while 20 percent of exonerations were for convictions based on false confessions.
The report “points to a much larger number of false convictions,” Samuel Gross, a University of Michigan law professor, and co-author of the report told the Huffington Post.
“That there is an impetus at all to address the underlying problems that create this false convictions is of course good news. But the other side is equally important, probably more so: When you see this many exonerations, that means there is a steady underlying problem. We now know now that happens on a regular basis.”