‘Making a Murderer’ Rape Victim Calls Feelings Toward Steven Avery ‘Complicated’

'Front Page With Keith Morrison: Steven
Courtesy of Netflix

Penny Beernsten, the rape victim in Netflix’s wildly popular docu-series “Making a Murderer,” spoke out to the Marshall Project about her role in the 1985 wrongful conviction of Steven Avery.

Beernsten opened up about her discovery that she’d falsely identified Steven Avery as the perpetrator of her violent assault, detailing her emotional reaction to Avery’s exoneration.

“The day I learned of the exoneration was worse than the day I was assaulted,” she said.  “After the DNA results came back, I just felt powerless. I can’t un-ring this bell. I can’t give Steve back the years that he’s lost.”

When she made her first public appearance following Avery’s release, she recalled an acquaintance telling her, “I can’t believe you’re brave enough to show your face.”

“I went from having sympathy to being this horrible person who made a mistake and is responsible for someone else’s suffering,” she said of the public’s shifted perception of her.  She continued, “My testimony sent an innocent person to prison… I absolutely wanted the earth to swallow me.”

Following Beernsten’s 1985 attack, she identified Avery as the assailant out of a police lineup.  He was ultimately convicted for the crime and sentenced to 32 years in prison. Eighteen years into Avery’s sentence, DNA evidence revealed that Avery was not responsible for her violent attack.

Filmed over a ten-year period, the ten-episode Netflix series documents Avery’s 1985 imprisonment, his later exoneration for the crime in 2003 and his subsequent controversial arrest and trial for the 2005 murder of photographer Teresa Halbach.

Beernsten has since apologized to both Avery and his family for her role in his wrongful conviction.

On the topic of Avery’s connection to the disappearance of Halbach, she conluded, “My emotions regarding Steven Avery are complicated.”

Though Beernsten appeared in “Making a Murderer,” she declined to be interviewed for the documentary because she was wary of the filmmakers’ relationship with Avery and his family, explaining, “They were very convinced that he was innocent. I was not convinced.”

Since the series Dec. 18 Netflix release, a juror from Avery’s 2007 trial contacted “Making a Murderer” creators Laura Ricciardi and Moira Demos to voice his regret for voting to convict Avery.  During an appearance on Tuesday’s episode of NBC’s “Today,” the documentarians revealed that the juror believes Avery was “framed by law enforcement” and is deserving of a new trial.  The anonymous juror also disclosed to Ricciardi and Demos that jurors engaged in a behind-the-scenes vote-trading comprise when the time came for the jury to deliberate on the case’s verdict.

Though the filmmakers haven’t verified the juror’s claim or yet communicated with any other juror’s from the trail, the duo praised viewers’ widespread response to the docu-series and the public discourse it has created.

“We never could have anticipated or even dreamed of the response to this series,” said Ricciardi on “Today.”  Added Demos, “Our goal going in was always to start a dialogue.  And I’m sure a piece of that dialogue is people’s desire to have more information about what happened to Teresa Halbach, and if somebody finds more information, I think that’s a good thing. I think that’s what she deserves.”

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  1. Judy says:

    Who really cares what this atrocity has to say or how she feels??? Really Penny? You can’t reconcile your feelings when YOU falsely accused an innocent man and ruined his entire life and family? He even forgave you when he should have sued you penniless. You are the reason the man is where he is now and YOU of all people think you have a right to even voice an opinion on his innocence or guilt. I will be so Happy when they again exonerate Avery and it will happen.
    I so Sincerely Hope that Demons Haunt your every waking and sleeping moment and on judgment day your find the same merciless judgment that have used to continue ruin this man.
    He proved himself so much better than you. You Penny are NOT a lady, just a classless, heartless hag.
    Avery has proven himself to have so much more class, character and humanity than You. Do everyone and yourself a favor and keep your mouth shut. You’ve done enough damage and I for one couldn’t care less how YOU feel. you should have no voice at all.

    • Tonia says:

      Penny’s actions were wrong, but I definitely believe that the law “enforcement” officer’s are more to blame for completely swaying a traumatized woman in the wrong direction. However, she should have NEVER hinted one iota toward her possible belief in his guilt this time around.

    • Robert says:

      Before you get too bent out of shape, the documentary made this guy look way better than he is. Dude lit a cat on fire (while it was alive) for fun shortly before he got thrown in jail. She did the universe a favor. Screw Avery.

      • Lucas says:

        Seriously Robert ? We’ve gone that far that setting a kitten on fire is enough reason to literally falsely accuse him of rape and make him lose almost 18 years of his life (would be much more if they didn’t find the real perpetrator of that crime).

        The documentary said his family was notably known as the scum of his city, first episode said he walked without underwear and did things that could lead him to go to jail for some time or community services which he did. I find it really harsh people that think about doing justice with their own hands. Hope you get falsely convicted one day for rape and murder, some reliable witness which everyone trusts is the key for the investigation that leads you to jail. Months later that guy comes to comments and say “this guy thinks innocent people should get convicted for what they didn’t do, I did the universe a favor. Screw Robert”.

  2. Penny Beerntsen , not ~sten

    • Eric says:

      Sorry Suzanne, I was trying to reply to Lucas.

    • Eric says:

      Lucas, six years of those 18 years was for attempting to kidnap his own cousin with a loaded 30-06 rifle, after running her off the road with his car (January 1985). The rape (July 1985, with Avery out on bail) and kidnap attempt sentences were running concurrent, so the first six years were gone anyway.

      Avery was a career criminal and in prison by the age of 22, two counts of burglary (one as a minor), the cat incident, the attempted kidnapping, indecent exposure, physical and emotional abuse his wives, girlfriends and children. After his 1985 arrest, death threats to his wife and more emotional abuse to his children from prison. After his 2003 release, statutory rape of an underage cousin, still abusing his wives and girlfriends, felon in possession of firearms, murdering Halbach (of which he is clearly guilty).

      The series said a lot of things that weren’t true, using the series a your source for information is pointless. It’s been proven to be fraudulent and full of lies.

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