Avery was arrested after the victim picked him from a photo lineup, and later from a live lineup as well.
Around 1995, a Brown County police detective called the Manitowoc County Jail, saying that an inmate "had admitted committing an assault years ago in Manitowoc County and that someone else was in jail for it".
Don’t concern yourself with it.” Avery continued to maintain his innocence in the Beerntsen case.
In 2002, after serving 18 years (the first six concurrently on the prior endangerment and weapons convictions), the Wisconsin Innocence Project used DNA testing—not available at the time of Avery's original trial—to exonerate him, and to demonstrate that Gregory Allen had in fact committed the crime.
The conviction was upheld by higher courts, Avery's 2003 exoneration prompted widespread discussion of Wisconsin's criminal justice system.
The Criminal Justice Reform Bill, enacted into law in 2005, implemented reforms aimed at preventing future wrongful convictions.
He attended public schools in nearby Mishicot and Manitowoc, where his mother said he went to an elementary school "for slower kids".
In March 1981, at age 18, Avery was convicted of burglarizing a bar with a friend.
After serving ten months of a two-year sentence in the Manitowoc County Jail, he was released on probation and ordered to pay restitution.
In January 1985, Avery's first cousin accused him of ramming his car into hers and, after she pulled over, pointing a gun at her head and trying to force her into his vehicle.
Since 1965, his family has operated a salvage yard on the 40-acre (16 ha) property where they lived outside town.
Avery has three siblings: Chuck, a younger brother Earl, and Barb (Barbara).
She said that Avery had been exposing himself to her as she drove past his house.