Jerry Buting, former attorney for Steven Avery was interviewed on the podcast “The Docket, Making a Murderer After Show,” that interview was aired on 1/25/16. In that interview, Mr. Buting covered many aspects and opinions of his involvement in the case.
One of those opinions surrounded the issue of the biased jury pool. During the interview, he addressed the press conference given by the prosecutor right after Brenden Dassey’s “confession”. He as many of us expressed that the media coverage was improper and the press conference allowed “unethical poisoning of the jury pool.” Because this press conference was aired not only in Manitowoc County, but the entire state, it was virtually impossible to gain a fair and impartial jury; this opinion was proven when the juror surveys came back and 129 out of 130 potential jurors stated that they had heard about the case and believed Steven Avery was guilty. An interesting tidbit that was not clear in the Netflix series Making a Murderer, was that all of the jurors were in fact residents of Manitowoc County, only the trial itself was taking place in another county.
The media coverage and the press conferences had a damaging effect on the entire state. For instance, Wisconsin abolished the death penalty in 1853. In the spring after Steven’s arrest for Halbach’s murder, the death penalty was put on a ballot and passed; Wisconsin legislature did not pass the bill into law, and the death penalty is still not allowed. However, it is clear that the outrage of citizens believing in Avery’s guilt pre-trail biased their votes.
When asked about his feelings about the case Buting stated, “This case was the hardest case to disengage from” out of his entire career. “We were always underdogs”. It is understandable how he would need to take time to get back to any other cases.
Buting echoed some statements we make here at Funded Justice. Access to justice is costly and it should not be. He explained that the Public defender system in Wisconsin about 60% of its attorneys on staff who receive a salary. However, the other 40% are private attorneys who have agreed and are willing to take on the excess caseload at a fee of $40/hour. He also stated that when he arrived in Wisconsin 30 years ago that fee to private attorneys was $45/hour for work completed in court and $35/hour for work completed outside of work. The amount that private attorneys are paid to represent those who cannot afford attorneys based is only $40/hour. There’s no wonder the system fails so many and why the quality of attorneys who will accept to work as public defenders has gone down drastically.
Wrongful convictions are the downside to the failure of not having proper public defenders. Brett Combs currently sits wrongfully convicted and needing the public’s assistance to pay his legal fees. In his campaign onhttps://www.fundedjustice.com he states “How can you be at a crime scene when you are on video tape at another location?” one of the key pieces of evidence that failed him at trial due to lack of having a good attorney on his side. You can read more about his case here: https://www.fundedjustice.com/en/projects/27906-Brett-Combs—Wrongful-conviction—two-cases-in-one