One of Making a Murderer subject Steven Avery’s trial attorneys has launched a new website to promote his book about the docu-series, public speaking schedule, and Wisconsin law firm.
Jerry Buting, along with Dean Strang, took Avery’s case shortly after Avery was arrested on November 11, 2005, for the murder of Teresa Halbach. Buting was recommended for Avery’s criminal defense by civil rights lawyer Stephen Glynn, Avery’s lawyer in his $36 million wrongful conviction suit against Manitowoc County. Strang was also recommended by Glynn.
Buting and Strang barely covered their expenses defending Avery. They were paid around $240,000 of the $400,000 settlement from the civil case. The rest went to Glynn. Buting and Strang were already accomplished defense attorneys at the time, however, but became internationally known when Making a Murderer was released on Netflix in December 2015.
Buting’s book, Illusion of Justice: Inside Making a Murderer and America’s Broken System, details the Avery case and highlights other high-profile cases from his 35-year career. In the book’s “Opening Statement,” Buting recounts the first day he and Strang began discussing Avery, “the most famous innocent man in Wisconsin” at the time. He had gone from a celebrated exoneree who wrongfully spent 18 years in prison to a man accused of brutally raping, killing, and dismembering a 25-year-old photographer inside of two years. That first day was March 1, 2006, the day Brendan Dassey confessed to his role in the crime.
An established speaker at American law schools, Buting’s schedule took an international turn in 2016 as the docu-series became the biggest Netflix hit of all time. In just under two years, he’s spoken about the case in Belgium, England, Finland, Iceland, Ireland, Norway, and Scotland, to name a few. He continues to tour while practicing law in Milwaukee.
In Making a Murderer, Buting spearheaded the scientific comparison of the specks of Avery’s blood found in Halbach’s RAV4 with blood in the now infamous vial discovered inside the Manitowoc County Sheriff’s Department. Making the connection to Sheriff’s Lt. James Lenk, Buting and Strang suspected that the blood was taken from the vial and planted in the vehicle. That notion was squashed at trial when the blood found in the Toyota did not contain EDTA, an anti-coagulant added to the vial to prevent clotting.
The suspected connection to Lenk remained for the rest of the trial though. Lenk had access to the blood in Avery’s prior case, and was the one who found the Toyota key in Avery’s bedroom. But the defense failed to convince the jury that law enforcement may have planted evidence and that the investigation was tainted.
According to Avery’s new lawyer, Kathleen Zellner, police not only planted evidence, but the state also committed a series of infractions that violated Avery’s right to a fair trial. The blood in Halbach’s car was not from the vial of stored blood, she says. It was Avery’s blood, as the state presented. Only it was not left there by an actively bleeding Steven Avery.
While Avery was away, the real killer slipped into his trailer, scooped his blood from his sink, and planted it in the Toyota before it was stashed on Avery’s property, Zellner alleges.
Meanwhile, Avery and nephew Brendan Dassey are fighting for their respective releases. Dassey’s conviction was overturned last year, although the state of Wisconsin is challenging that ruling in the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals. Avery’s appeal is back in circuit court pending word from a judge. Zellner’s 1,272-page motion filed last month asks for his immediate release or a new trial.
[Featured Image by Kirk Wagner/AP Images]