Dean Strang might once again represent Steven Avery in court — and he says there’s a “mass” of potential new evidence to consider if he does so.
Strang — one of the defense attorneys featured in the infuriating and fascinating Netflix documentary series “Making a Murderer” — told TheWrap on Friday that it’s possible he could take up Avery’s case in a new trial, and that he and fellow defense attorney Jerry Buting have “remained informally involved in working for Steven since his appeals process was completed.” While it’s ultimately up to Avery whether Strang and Buting represent him in a bid for a new trial, Strang said that there’s a vast trove of new material to explore.
Should he formally represent Avery again, Strang said, “I’d be focused on possible newly discovered evidence. And that, at the moment, will require sifting through and ranking by priority the leads, ideas [and] possibilities that have arrived in a mass from emails and calls since the film came out.”
The material includes leads and ideas on scientific advances, Strang said. “And then factual leads, theories — whether any of it turns out to be evidence in the useful sense of supporting a new trial, that just remains to be seen. But the attention to the film has produced a lot of potentially helpful information.”
For those who’ve watched “Making a Murderer” — about Wisconsin resident Avery, who spent 18 years in prison for a rape that he didn’t commit, only to be convicted of murder under suspicious circumstances just a few years after his exoneration — there were plenty of enraging questions. (“How could they not have found the key the first half-dozen times they were in the room?”) For Strang, a particularly frustrating event in the case was a March 2006 press conference, during which the prosecutor offered a lurid and graphic scenario depicting Teresa Halbach in Avery’s bedroom, spread-eagle, manacled and begging for her life as she was raped and stabbed. According to Strang, the evidence “utterly disproved” that account. While the rape charge was dropped from Avery’s case, meaning that account was never heard by his jury, by that point the damage had been done.
“That was very, very difficult to accept as being consistent with a fair trial or a presumption of innocence where anybody who had a radio or TV in Wisconsin was exposed repeatedly to that lurid story for 10 months prior to the beginning of Steven Avery’s trial,” Strang said.
Strang concedes that there are “lots of things” that he could have done differently as well. One that still particularly sticks with him: the FBI’s testing of blood smears found in Halbach’s car for the presence of EDTA, a chemical used to preserve blood samples. Strang had theorized that authorities planted the blood in Halbach’s car from a vial of Avery’s blood extracted during his wrongful first conviction. Had the blood tested positively for EDTA, it would have served as evidence that it came from the previously drawn sample. But the FBI found no EDTA. The testing process took mere days, rather than the weeks or months that Strang was told it would take. The bombshell, which fell deep into the trial, caught Avery’s defense flat-footed.
“I should have anticipated that,” Strang lamented. “And of course mid-trial, there was no way we could do independent testing, or do much of anything in the middle of trial to react to that.”
During his conversation with TheWrap, Strang also took issue with Avery prosecutor Ken Kratz’s assertion that key evidence was left out of “Making a Murderer.” Strang picked apart a list of nine points suggesting Avery’s guilt that Kratz emailed to TheWrap earlier this week. A past incident during which Avery burned a cat, as well as an account that Avery talked about building a torture chamber, were excluded from Avery’s trial by the judge, Strang said.
Similarly, Strang said, Halbach — a photographer for Auto Trader — didn’t say that she would never return to Avery’s residence after he once greeted her at his property in a towel, as Kratz asserted.
“There’s certainly a good deal of omission from Mr. Kratz’s nine points as well,” Strang said. “If the criticism [of ‘Making a Murderer’] is omission, then the nine-point list includes some pretty significant omissions too.”