“Making A Murderer” attorney Jerome “Jerry” Buting, who gained international fame after the release of the Netflix film which chronicled his representation of accused killer Steven Avery, was our recent guest on the LawNewz network.
Buting joined LawNewz host Aaron Keller, who was in 2005 through 2007 one of the local reporters who covered the Steven Avery trial in its entirety and whose work was heavily included in the film.
This appears to have been the first joint appearance of an attorney who tried the case and a journalist who covered it.
The defendant, Steven Avery, was charged with killing Teresa Halbach, a photographer who had visited the Avery family property to take photos of a car Avery’s relatives were offering for sale. Prosecutors alleged the visit was the last time Halbach was seen alive. Her charred remains, car, and cell phone were discovered days later on the Avery property. Steven Avery quickly became a prime suspect and immediately told reporters he was being framed.
Avery was, in 2005, no stranger to the officers who were investigating the Halbach case. Avery had previously served eighteen years in prison in connection to a 1985 rape. After years of maintaining his innocence, DNA technology proved that Avery indeed did not commit the 1985 rape and that, astonishingly, someone else did. Avery was exonerated in 2003 and became a poster boy for the power of DNA evidence in straightening out wrongful convictions.
LawNewz host Aaron Keller covered the Halbach disappearance, the search, and the eventual connection of Avery to the case. He conducted several interviews with Avery both while he was under suspicion and after he was arrested. Keller went on to cover every legal motion filed by both the prosecution and the defense. Ultimately, he covered the jury trials of both Steven Avery and Brendan Dassey. Dassey, Avery’s nephew, was also charged in the killing.
Keller was the first reporter to publicly hammer the Manitowoc County Sheriff’s Department over its conflicts of interest in the Halbach case. Back in 2005, within days of Avery’s arrest, Keller began to discover that the same department which botched the 1985 rape case had not only been present for the Halbach investigation, but had found much of the most critical evidence on the Avery property — even after public promises that they would be excluded from the investigation due to that conflict of interest.
Several of the Manitowoc County officers who were investigating the Halbach case had a conflict of interest because the department had been sued by Avery for mishandling the 1985 rape case. Several of the officers who had recently been questioned as part of that civil lawsuit were the ones who found the critical evidence against Avery in the Halbach case.
The defense team later argued in court that the embarrassing civil lawsuit led Manitowoc County officers to frame Steven Avery and to plant evidence against him.
Keller was also the first journalist to publicly question whether prosecutor Ken Kratz violated the rules of professional conduct governing attorneys for orchestrating a gruesome press conference on March 2, 2006, which was stitched together based on details from the purported confession of Brendan Dassey. Kratz at the time maintained that he did not break the rules due to a loophole. Defense attorneys argued that Kratz’s pretrial publicity severely tainted the jury pool and that Dassey had been pushed around by investigators who fed him answers. More recently, Kratz has indicated regretting releasing too much information prior to trial. Avery’s defense team maintains that the Dassey “confession” is highly unreliable and unsupported by physical evidence.
Buting chronicled his experiences with the case and with the film in his new book Illusion of Justice: Inside Making A Murderer and America’s Broken System. He also discusses other important cases from his career.
Keller joined LawNewz.com after more than a decade in broadcast journalism and, subsequently, a legal education. He is a licensed attorney in two states.