MAKING A MURDERER
With Netflix hit Making A Murderer set to return and Steven Avery still fighting for freedom, Crime Scene crossexamines his defence attorney Dean Strang with the help of lawyers and thriller writers Neil White and Steve Cavanagh.
Steven Avery’s lawyer talks us through the case ahead of Series 2 of the Netflix series.
True crime documentary Making A Murderer was the must-see show that everyone was talking about this year. Now it’s coming back for a second series and will continue to focus on the potential miscarriage of justice of Steven Avery, who’s serving a life sentence for murder. Avery denies killing Teresa Halbach, whose remains were found close to his home in 2005. The first series raised questions about Avery’s conviction and the role of law officials from Manitowoc County, Wisconsin, who faced financial penalties over a civil case for Avery’s wrongful imprisonment for 18 years in a previous case.
“There is a ton of info that wasn’t explored just in the confines of the episodes we’ve already done,” says Netflix’s Ted Sarandos. “There’s a lot of new information coming up.” A second series of Making A Murderer suggests there may be vital fresh evidence – and it’s being produced amid huge developments in the case. Brendan Dassey, who was sentenced to life alongside his uncle Steven Avery, had his murder conviction overturned by a US federal judge in August. Dassey, who also featured in the documentary, was just 16 when he was convicted.
Crime Scene has been playing its part in the debate by putting the TV show on trial in issue 3 with the expert analysis of lawyers and crime writers Neil White and Steve Cavanagh. The duo turned that into a courtroom drama (staged by Crime Scene and publishers Orion) that was the hit of Bristol’s Crimefest, with the authors going head to head as prosecution and defence concerning Avery’s guilt in front of a judge (author Sophie Hannah), jury and a packed audience. In the event, there was a hung jury. “One of the best things at a crime festival yet,” said crime writer Sarah Hilary.
This issue Neil and Steve are reunited (overleaf ) to quiz Dean Strang, Avery’s former defence lawyer, who’s still getting used to the celebrity resulting from Making A Murderer. Strang and fellow defence attorney Jerry Buting are on a speaking tour in the UK this autumn that includes a date at the London Palladium. “I was very pleasantly surprised,” Strang tells Crime Scene of the British dates. “But I think many of the systemic failings that a broad audience have seen in Making A Murderer, or The Jinx or other recent popular true crime documentaries, transcend national boundaries. So it’s really flattering and delightful to be able to try to carry that conversation outside US borders.”
As one of the stars of Making A Murderer, Strang has also been lining up his own documentary series, Dean Strang: Road To Justice, which is currently in development. “That series will entail contemporary cases where there may or may not have been a miscarriage of justice,” says Strang. “It may have been a wrongful conviction or it may have been a wrongful acquittal. And there will be some historical cases of well established miscarriages of justice in the United States, so that the viewer will have the counterpoint to assess how far we’ve progressed, or not progressed, from a past day when there were explicit or undeniable failings in the justice system.”
Strang recently welcomed the overturning of the Brendan Dassey conviction. He’s hopeful that Avery will eventually go free too. “I hope for Steven Avery and obviously for his lawyer that they discover new evidence that would warrant at least a new trial, if not establish exoneration in the first instance,” he tells Crime Scene. Although his own TV series won’t revisit the case, the speaking tour will cover the Avery case and the justice system. So the UK dates are the best way to get your Making A Murderer fix ahead of Series 2.