Woman who falsely accused Avery in rape case talks memory in new doc

Published: Jun. 28, 2019 at 2:57 PM CDT
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A documentary about memory, trauma and crime features the woman who falsely identified Steven Avery as her attacker in a 1985 rape case.

In "Contaminated Memories", Penny Beerntsen recounts her attack on a beach in Manitowoc County and what led her to mistakenly identify Avery as her rapist. Steven Avery is the subject of Netflix's "Making A Murderer."

The film is the vision of Debra Tolchinsky. She worked closely with Beernsten to share the story.

"I began exploring the intersection of memory and law after hearing the story of Penny Beerntsen, who was assaulted while running on a beach in 1985 — and who misidentified her assailant in the subsequent investigation," says filmmaker Debra Tolchinsky in the New York Times. "There’s a term for what she experienced: 'memory contamination.' It’s when investigators influence an interview with a subject, resulting in inaccurate information."

to watch "Contaminated Memories."

Steven Avery served 18 years in prison for Beerntsen's attack before DNA evidence cleared him of the crime. Fully exonerated, Avery was released from prison in 2003. He'd be arrested two years later for the murder of freelance photographer Teresa Halbach. That case is the focus of "Making A Murderer." Avery continues to appeal his conviction in the Halbach murder.

Penny Beerntsen's actual attacker was identified as Gregory Allen. He would go on to commit another sexual assault.

Allen is serving a prison sentence for 1995 sexual assault and kidnapping case in Brown County--ten years after the rape of Penny Beerntsen.

Allen's eligible for parole in October 2021, according to the Wisconsin Department of Corrections.

"Contaminated Memories" is an New York Times Op-Doc.

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