So since I watched both The Staircase and Making a Murderer in a week, I’ve basically considered myself a criminal defense attorney. I mean, that’s how it works, right?
(My mom, an actual attorney, informs me that is not how it works.)
And as a good lawyer, I’m always in the market for good continuing education. So when everyone and their brother started releasing books about the Avery case I was like UM SHUT UP AND TAKE MY MONEY.
(Note to my husband: I didn’t buy them all. Just Jerry Buting’s. Consider it a donation to St. Francis Seminary.)
I was really interested to see not only whether Buting wears boxers or briefs (He taunts us with that question in the last chapter but NEVER ANSWERS IT. I’m waiting for the sequel.) but also if anything changed my mind. When the miniseries came out, there was all this stuff about “the forgotten evidence” and “what the producers left out” and blah blah blah but nothing that was actually brought up managaed to change my mind that it wasn’t a fair trial.
So I started with Buting’s, the only pro-Avery book.
My fangirling aside, Buting’s book is an excellent examination of not only Avery’s case but other wrongful convictions in Wisconsin history. He focuses mainly on the bullet, DNA, and bone fragments and does a really good job of explaining why there are major holes in the prosecution’s treatment of all of them.
The personal anecdotes add to the story and are not overwrought. (Like I could find a Buting story overwrought. Tell me more about Dean, Jer.)
Overall a really really good true crime book, and a good defense of the defense, so to speak.
Next I read Kratz’s Avery: The Case Against Steven Avery and What Making a Murderer Gets Wrong.
Kratz obviously takes the opposite approach but doesn’t execute it with anywhere near the skill that Buting does. His tone is angry, aggressive, and nasty. At one point he suggests that if Dassey were to get a new trial and be freed (something which he seems to be in favor of for half the book?) it would only be a matter of time before someone else gets killed like Halbach.
Um. No. You can’t just accuse people of murder that hasn’t happened yet.
He examines much of the same evidence that Buting does, and presents some compelling facts (like the splicing of Coburn’s testimony, and the burned personal electronics in the burn bin) but does it in a way that comes across as vindictive and self serving. He repeats over and over again how he was wronged by this case. Literally. Over. And over.
The only redeeming feature was getting to read about his hilarious sex scandal.
The most annoying thing was that he goes on and on about how good of a guy he is to be writing this book primarily for the victim and then…doesn’t mention her at all.
Boo. D-. Would not read again. (Except maybe the funny parts about the sexting.)
Finally, I read Michael Griesbach’s Indefensible: The Missing Truth About Steven Avery, Teresa Halbach, and Making a Murderer.
Griesbach is the Manitowoc County DA and didn’t have anything to do with the case himself, but obviously works with many of the players. He begins the book by noting that he watched the show and was shocked- could this have happened? Did they do this to a person? So he set out to investigate the same material.
Griesbach investigates and relies on much the same evidence as Kratz but he does it in a much nicer (and more coherant) way. Griesbach isn’t as good a writer as Buting (there are paragraphs that make no sense, and I could not make heads or tails of his timeline- he’s watching the show and being surprised and then investigating all in the same night but it’s also Christmas and his kids are home and…? I don’t even know. That’s what it reads like. ) but he clearly and calmly goes through the evidence.
He disputes Buting’s conclusions about the bullet, the DNA, and the bones. He does do a thorough analysis of the evidence, I felt like. But it just felt like his final conclusion was based on “welll this is something that never happened before so it can’t happen” and that bugs me. It could happen. Buting and Griesbach flat out contradict each other on several things- notably, whether striations on the bullet are definitive proof that a bullet was fired from a specific gun. Griesbach says yes. Buting says absolutely not, there’s as much as 80% difference between bullets fired from the same guns. You basically have to pick a side, without being an independent bullet mark analyst.
(I’m not, although I have watched a lot of CSI.)
So did it change my mind?
I’m more convinced than ever that if anyone other than Steven Avery murdered Halbach, it had to have been someone on the Avery property, doing most of the “framing” to look like Steven Avery did it himself.
But from my perspective, there still wasn’t enough of an explanation to explain the key without any DNA, the DNA test being used despite being compromised, or the bones not having been moved to have allowed for a conviction. I’m not saying he innocent. At all. I’m just saying it doesn’t make sense to me that it happened the way they said it did.
Either way, if people release more books and shows about this, I AM RIGHT THERE BABY LIKE THE BOTTOM FEEDER I AM