Dean Strang, advocate for Making a Murderer’s Steven Avery, spoke about the details surrounding the case that has captured the attention of numerous people around the world.
Avery had previously spent 18 years behind bars on a sexual charge before, in 2003, DNA evidence proved his innocence. He was subsequently exonerated. Two years later, in 2005, he was arrested for the murder of photographer Teresa Halbach. Questions have emerged whether he has been framed for the crime. Avery’s nephew, Brendan Dassey, was arrested for acting as his uncle’s accomplice in the crime.
In an interview with Fusion.net, Strang said the question isn’t whether Avery is innocent or not; instead, whether Avery was proven guilty. He further said the problem people have in understanding the difference between the two does not lie in their knowledge of the criminal justice system. Instead, he said, “it lies in an understandable conflation of truth-seeking as a global goal and the limits of, or function of, any criminal justice system.”
“The reality of the criminal justice system is that we are often left with significant residual doubt and uncertainty about outcomes,” he said.
Jerry Buting, Strang’s co-counsel, said in a recent interview with Reason that he believes Avery is innocent. However, he supplemented his assertion by saying it does not matter what he believes in because he is Avery’s lawyer.
Strang said he does believe the public puts stock in the belief that the lawyers know whether their client is innocent or guilty because they “probably have a cultural understanding of the lawyer-client privilege, and therefore assume that clients come in and bare their souls to a lawyer if they’re guilty, or are able absolutely to persuade a lawyer of their innocence if they’re innocent.”
“So the reality is that, of course, most clients don’t bare their souls, or at least do that only in a very gradual, halting, and ambiguous way,” he added. “And for most people who may be innocent, or are innocent, it’s very difficult to prove that.”
When asked what he would say to a viewer who has followed Making a Murderer and wanted to be more responsible in the social context despite not being in a legal profession, Strang said, “Start with the power of the story you’ve been told. Stories are powerful to us. We remember them. They move us. Our brains are oriented around fashioning facts into a coherent story.”
“The aftermath of [Making a Murderer] has been a great gift, in many respects, to me, in getting me engaged at a more systemic level, and in helping me to find my voice on broad issues and systemic failings,” he said.