‘Making A Murderer’ Defense Attorneys Hope To Spark Change

Having binge-watched Making a Murderer during January’s epic snow, my law-partner husband and I attended the DPAC presentation: “Dean Strang and Jerry Buting: A Conversation on Justice.” Dean is a UVA Law graduate, as is my husband. Jerry is a UNC Law graduate, as am I. My husband taught Jerry contracts and UCC.  On that cold January day, we felt an affinity for both. When the NCBA arranged a member event outing including a pre-presentation meeting with Dean and Jerry, pictured above, we said “Count us in!”

As the world now knows, Dean and Jerry defended Steven Avery against murder charges in the tragic death of Teresa Halbach in Manitowoc County, Wis.  The Netflix documentary about the case is an internet sensation.  The public conversation about the separate convictions of Steven Avery and his nephew Brendan Dassey includes the topics of wrongful conviction, police misconduct and prosecutorial misconduct.  The documentary generated so much interest that a petition to pardon Steven Avery addressed to President Barack Obama (who has no authority in this state case) garnered more than half a million signatures.

During our private meeting with Dean and Jerry and the public presentation, lots of questions were asked about the case. One of interest to me was how two defense attorneys ended up in a documentary filmed during a murder trial. The answer: Laura Ricciardi and Moira Demos began their work with the Avery family before either Dean or Jerry were engaged as counsel.  The film crew was a reality when their representation began.  They did not choose it. They had trepidation about it.  Both now believe that it has cast light where light must be cast.

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