Since the release of Netflix’s docuseries “Making a Murderer,” Dean Strang has become something of a celebrity. But in the nine years since the trial of convict Steven Avery, he’s seen himself as one thing only.
“I’ve been nothing but a criminal defence lawyer during the time since this trial, as before,” Strang told Business Insider in an interview.
Strang was one of two lawyers (the other was Jerry Buting) who represented Steven Avery during the Teresa Halbach murder trial, the subject of “Making a Murderer.” Avery was accused, and eventually found guilty, of the murder. But many believe Avery was not only innocent; they also suspect he was framed by the Manitowoc County sheriff’s office. Avery had previously spent 18 years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit, and when exonerated, sued Manitowoc, shortly before his arrest in the Halbach murder.
The immense popularity of “Making a Murderer” has brought the case back to light, with thousands of people demanding that Avery be released from prison, where he is currently serving a life sentence.
Since the show’s debut, Strang has found unique fame on the internet. He’s inspired countless tweets that are basically love letters to the lawyer as well as a Tumblr dedicated to his fashion sense.
— Kristen Bell (@IMKristenBell) January 3, 2016
But when asked about his newfound popularity, Strang balks.
“I think it’s silly,” Strang said. “It’s gonna fade very quickly. I’m not a celebrity. I’m not someone who is going to remain in the public eye.”
On the other hand, while he has our attention, Strang wants to use the spotlight to do some good.
“All I’m trying to do at the moment is kick the interviews or the forums in which I think we might discuss the broader issues that the film raises and I might get to say some of the things I want to say after 30 years-plus working in courts,” Strang said.
And Strang has a lot on his mind.
Plenty of speculation has been raised about whether Avery actually killed Halbach. But “Making a Murderer” goes far beyond just the verdict, exploring injustices in America’s criminal courts in general. This is something Strang believes that series does well.
“I think among those [issues] that I see in the documentary are the role of class in our criminal justice system. Once you’re talking about class it’s hard to disconnect that from race, ethnicity, recent arrival as an immigrant, because all of those things get linked disproportionately to being a member of an underclass,” Strang said.
Strang also takes issue with how Avery’s nephew Brendan Dassey, who was also convicted for Halbach’s murder, was questioned by an investigator. American courts, in Strang’s mind, could use some more “humility.”
“By humility I mean willingness to evaluate our levels of certainty critically,” Strang said. “I think the emphasis we place on finality is elevated far beyond what humble public servants and workers in the justice system would give it.”
Strang doesn’t think any criminal justice system will ever be perfect, but he believes that looking at what the rest of the world does both good and bad will only benefit us.
“The world is a great laboratory to look around and say, ‘What best practices is Norway using? What best practices is New Zealand using?’ What best practices do we see in any country?” Strang said. “I don’t know that you could point to any country on earth that has all best practices. I do know that every country on earth has a criminal justice system that is composed entirely of human beings with all of our weaknesses and strengths.”
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