Thursday evening, on a simple stage, armed with a clicker and PowerPoint presentation, Jerry Buting spoke to students about his career as a criminal defense attorney and his involvement in the Netflix docuseries “Making a Murderer.” The event was hosted by Campus Events Board and the Center for Student Engagement.
Buting was one of the main defense attorneys in the State of Wisconsin v. Avery case, the case of focus in “Making a Murderer.” He spent the majority of his speech detailing the events of the case and why his team chose the defense they did.
The Wisconsin v. Avery case is one under controversy and speculation. In short, Steven Avery was wrongly convicted of sexual assault in 1985 and spent 18 years in jail before he was exonerated through DNA evidence.
Buting spoke about the dangers of wrongful conviction, both for the victim as well as society.
“Not only do we imprison the wrong person, but society is certainly harmed when the real perpetrator isn’t caught,” Buting said.
Two years after he was released from prison, Avery filed a $36 million lawsuit against the sheriffs of Manitowoc County for wrongful conviction. Then, he was charged and convicted with the murder of another woman, Teresa Halbach.
Avery’s nephew, Brendan Dassey, confessed to the latter murder despite being only sixteen and struggling with mental health problems. The two men are now in prison.
Buting served as Avery’s defense attorney and worked to prove that the police planted evidence at multiple crime scenes in the case, trapping Avery and Dassey into conviction. He believes their motives involved making sure the county would not have to pay Avery the money for his first wrongful conviction sentence.
Buting discussed the events leading up to the obstruction of justice, such as the press conference which misrepresented the case, the inconsistency of evidence and the fact that there was no corroborating physical evidence to prove Avery’s involvement in the crime.
Buting held the position that Avery was targeted.
“Do we really have a presumption of innocence in America?” Buting asked the audience.
One member of the audience was Luke Carpenter, a freshman majoring in physics. Carpenter spoke about his surprise towards the case and its outcome as he listened to Buting’s speech.
“I’ve never watched ‘Making a Murderer,’ but watching him talk about how the case was, it was really interesting to see what went on, and it was definitely very eye-opening to see, especially Brendan Dassey’s confession,” said Carpenter.
Before finishing the event with a question and answer session, Buting addressed the audience, giving his recommendations of what civilians can do to participate in the judicial system and ensure real justice. He believes that we are all a part of helping the system run smoothly and that civilians have a responsibility to do their part.
By voting, embracing jury duty, supporting legislation to bar custodial interrogation of juveniles without a lawyer, supporting mandatory recordings of police interrogation and supporting separations between crime labs and law enforcement, Buting says we can all help ensure justice.