Steven Avery’s case is back in the national spotlight as Netflix debuted the second season of Making a Murderer, nearly three years after the first season created a furor across the country.
In response, we revisited the six times we talked with Super Lawyers selectees involved in Avery’s case to get their perspective on this high-profile and controversial case.
In 2005, Super Lawyers talked with Robert Henak, the Milwaukee appellate attorney who began representing Avery in 1994, who had already spent eight years in prison after he was convicted of rape:
Although Henak was certain of Avery’s innocence, he was unable to get the conviction overturned. “It’s a case that has really haunted me,” says Henak, who spent three years working on Avery’s behalf. “Going through the legal system, I was unable to help him, even though I had DNA evidence I thought showed that the trial was not fair.”
Then, in 2007, four years after the dismissal of Avery’s conviction and his release from prison, Super Lawyers discussed Avery with Stephen Glynn, whose firm began representing Avery in 1996.
Glynn never got over the feeling of guilt he felt the day Avery was arrested for the photographer’s murder.
“I wanted to pull the covers over my head,” Glynn says. “The impact emotionally was almost palpable. He was a guy I thought I knew. I was glad my wife was with me [that day] because I could not have driven back from court after everything began pointing to Steven.”
More unsettling for Glynn is the thought that this case might give the people of Wisconsin or its legislators a reason to turn against criminal justice reforms. In 2005, the Wisconsin Legislature passed reforms that required videotaped confessions in all juvenile and adult felony cases. It strengthened procedures for retention and testing of biological material, created new rules for eyewitness identification and limited the admissibility of unrecorded statements.
After Glynn, Jerry Buting and Dean Strang became Avery’s attorneys, and the ones prominently featured in Making a Murderer. In 2012, Buting talked with Super Lawyers about how they got involved in the murder case:
I was called by the other attorney, Dean Strang. He and I had worked on other cases, where we’d represented co-defendants, and so we were familiar with each other’s style. He thought we would complement each other well, and I think we did as the case went on. Dean has a very bright, gentlemanly, scholarly approach, and he was able to work with the prosecutors a little better than I was. It just developed where I had a little bit of the harder edge as the case proceeded. … We weren’t intending to do good cop/bad cop, but it developed that way as the case went on.
[Avery] continues to maintain his innocence, and I continue to believe the evidence was very suspicious in the case. The original jury-I think when they went out their first vote was seven “not guilty,” three “guilty,” and two uncertain. Then they deliberated for four and a half days before they finally convicted. So it was not a slam-dunk case. I think his fight for justice is going to go on. It may take a long time before the truth comes out.
A year after Making a Murderer aired, in 2016, Super Lawyers caught up with Strang and Buting as they toured the country talking about the good, bad and ugly of the justice system. Here’s how Strang explained Making a Murderer‘s impact and how he reacted to the spotlight placed on him.
“Jerry and I were getting on with life, minding our own business,” Strang explains. “Then Making a Murderer came out. Effectively, Jerry and I were handed a microphone. We thought that, while we have it, we should use it.”
“Given my debt to the legal profession, I think it’s a matter of obligation to use the microphone to useful ends: furthering a conversation about the strengths and weaknesses of our justice system, thinking about ways we ought to be improving the administration of justice. I can point to 100 other lawyers who might do a better job with the microphone than I would, but for the moment, it got handed to me.”
“I think progress comes, and the speed at which progress comes is accelerated when the public begins to pay attention to how their police departments are serving their communities, how the judicial system is functioning, and whether public resources are being expended well and wisely and achieving a reliable, fair system for all of us. I see reason for guarded optimism in the public response to documentaries like Making a Murderer, The Jinx and Serial.”
In the same year, Kathleen Zellner picked up Avery’s case, and then in 2017, she filed a motion with new evidence. In the 2018 Illinois Super Lawyers Magazine, she explained how she approaches Avery’s case and what the new information could mean moving forward.
“I do think there’s certain venom with the Avery case and with the [accompanying] social media that I haven’t experienced before,” she says. “Whenever cases reach a level of being high-profile, you get a lot of pushback from the other side. And because this went to the level of being a documentary, it has made that even stronger. The people who are against Avery are really against him. But [the pushback] motivates me. It doesn’t intimidate me.”
Late 2017, Avery’s motion for a new trial was denied and in June 2018, Brendan Dassey’s petition to the United States Supreme Court was denied. With the newest season of the documentary released, time will tell where Avery’s case ends up and how these Super Lawyers selectees will continue to be involved in a case that’s grabbed the attention of millions across the country.
Read up on more Super Lawyers listees by accessing the digital editions of Super Lawyers Magazine.