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Could Swedish blood test solve 'Making a Murderer'?

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Could Swedish blood test solve 'Making a Murderer'?
Steven Avery (right) was sentenced to life in prison in 2007. Photo: Dwight Nale/AP
08:13 CEST+02:00
Researchers at Sweden's Karolinska Institutet (KI) medical university are hoping to use blood tests to solve an American murder case which gained global fame in a Netflix documentary.

The documentary series ‘Making a Murderer' looks at the story of Steven Avery, who is currently serving a life prison sentence for the murder of photographer Teresa Halbach in Wisconsin. He maintains that he is innocent.

Now, researchers at KI will carry out tests of the blood trail used as evidence in the case, which should help show whether he was correctly convicted or not.

KI senior researcher in molecular biology Kirsty Spalding watched the Netflix series when it aired in 2015. When she realized that Avery had been imprisoned without proper testing of the blood evidence being carried out, she contacted his lawyer, Swedish newspaper Svenska Dagbladet (SvD) reports.

“I e-mailed her to say ‘I believe we can determine with radioactive carbon-dating whether the blood was planted or not'. I received a reply within half an hour,” Spalding told SvD.

In the series, the documentary makers argue that Avery was wrongly convicted, and that local police and prosecutors may have planted his blood in 25-year-old photographer Halbach's vehicle.

Avery, 54, had previously been acquitted in 2003 of the 1985 rape and attempted murder of Penny Beerntsen, for which he served 18 years in prison.

But in November 2005 he was arrested again, this time on suspicion of murder in a new case. Two years later he was sentenced to life imprisonment for the killing of photographer Halbach.

The practice that makes the new blood test possible is radiocarbon dating. The large increase in radioactive carbon in relation to non-radioactive carbon can be used as a timeline which is helpful when dating for example human tissue.

“I thought we could measure the level of radioactive carbon in relation to normal carbon and from there know whether the blood from Steven Avery's conviction is from 1996, or from the murder of Teresa Halbach which was sentenced in 2005,” Spalding said.

If the blood is old, it could be a sign that it was planted. When the test will be performed is not yet known.

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