Jerry Buting, Stephen Avery’s lawyer from the popular Netflix series Making a Murderer, visits NL for a captivating evening of “behind the scenes” insight
The Netflix series, Making a Murderer, captivated a generation of bingers. Weeks after the show’s release, it was all anyone could talk about. Not just in America where the trial took place, but right here in this province as well.
Behind the scenes
And now Jerry Buting, Stephen Avery’s Lawyer who many became familiar with while watching the show, will host a Q&A at Holy Heart in St. John’s on August 14, promising a night of “behind the scenes” insight into how police and prosecutors tipped the scales of justice in their efforts to convict Steven Avery and his young nephew Brendan Dassey.
The case is fascinating. Avery, who is supposed to be serving a life sentence for the murder of young freelance photographer Teresa Halbach in 2005, is currently having his case re-examined by a court in Wisconsin. Always maintaining his innocence, Avery has won a motion to appeal based on possible human bones found in a gravel pit, bones that were never tested for DNA, but given to the murdered woman’s family, which is a violation of state law.
In separate trials, Avery and his nephew Dassey were both sentenced to life in prison for the killing after charred remains were found at Avery’s car salvage yard a week after she went there to photograph a minivan he had for sale.
If the bones, found near the Avery property, actually belong to Halbach, then what happens to the prosecution’s theory that she was killed on the Avery property?
Leading up to his NL arrival, Buting took a moment to chat with The Herald about this and so much more. When asked what the fascination is with this story, Buting dives right in.
“Well you know, it’s a good question. I don’t know that anybody has a perfect answer for it. I think, partly, it’s a pretty unique story. It was the first, and thankfully still the only time, that DNA exonerated and released a man from prison after almost two decades of being wrongly convicted to then find himself charged with something even more serious, like murder,” he begins.
Then, there’s the backstory – all captured on camera. “It’s really the first time that people get to see, in intimate detail, a real court drama, not reenactments. This was actual film footage. It really gives people an opportunity to see what it was like in a real case and what it was like to prepare for a real serious case like a murder case and that’s part of the allure, too.”
Buting says, when he does these live events, he’s comforted by the “similar” reactions people have to what they watched.
“Clearly that’s the thing that troubled people the most. Most believe they saw what appeared to be a police frame up. There’s planting of evidence and all of that against Steven Avery, which was bad enough, but when they saw what happened to the 16 year old mentally challenged young man. That really tugged at people’s hearts. I had parents saying, you know my son is just like this. I could see the exact same thing happening to him. Or teachers who had children that had similar traits. It’s shocking to watch,” he says.
After already being coached and coaxed into admitting to murder, what does (Dassey) do next?
“So he says he raped, murdered and mutilated a body and then he says, ‘you know, we’re going to be much longer? I have a project and a test period and I’d like to get back to school.’ That was so gut wrenching because it was so obvious that poor kid had no clue what he was saying and to think that he was going to go back to school after?”
Viewers reacted with compassion. He gets that reaction a lot, he says. What can people expect? The case is still ongoing on appeal, and anything can happen at anytime.
“It’s an opportunity for Q&A on things that people feel didn’t get answered or disclose things behind the scenes people didn’t get a chance to see. I’ll try and take my cues from what people in Newfoundland are interested in.
“Some are interested in the nuts and bolts of the case. Others have broader questions about the justice system, like how common is this in America? Could this happen in Canada? And also just what it was like to participate in this whole documentary and why we did it. You know some kind of insight behind the scenes. The documentary was 10 hours long and like three and a half hours of actual trial testimony so obviously there was a lot that they couldn’t include.”
‘True crime genre’
Does he have any thoughts on the popularity of the case and series?
“It’s interesting because the true crime genre has been growing and it really has taken off. But a lot of the fascination has been more with celebrity type crimes, you know the OJ case and things like that. One of the big differences here is that Stephen Avery is really sort of an everyman and you know a lot of people can relate to that. In every small town there’s always sort of the usual suspects. They get hassled by the police for every little thing. I think a lot of people see a little bit of themselves or someone they know.”
Plus, the evidence appears to show Avery and Dassey are innocent, and that evidence was planted, he adds.
What’s his reason for talking about this case? Because it’s the right thing to do.
“I think it brings transparency to the system. It’s been a sort of an insider’s game. This gives people a chance to see what happens. You can’t get more real life drama than what happened here.”
For more, including tickets for St. John’s, visit newfoundpromotions.com