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“Making a Murderer” - EYBA Spring Conference (Part 2)

19 Apr 2016

The 2nd in a 2 part series. Following on from yesterday’s blog, Fionntan Gamble, Legal Recruiter at Brightwater in Belfast, hears from Jerry Buting, famous for his portrayal in Netflix’s smash series “Making a Murderer”.

There were lots of incredible speakers at the EYBA conference almost 2 weeks ago, however Mr Buting’s keynote address is what I’ve been asked about the most, by those who missed the conference. The excitement was definitely palpable throughout the morning and afternoon presentations in the build up to Jerry’s talk. Jerry dedicated his life and career to working in the American Criminal Justice System. His present private practice consists entirely of criminal defence cases, both trials and appeals. He has defended the citizen accused in many serious high profile trial cases and had a front row ticket in witnessing the occurrence of multiple miscarriages of justice. Drawing on mainly two cases, the Avery case and his representation of another defendant wrongly convicted after 29 years in prison, he highlighted that these are just the tip of the iceberg in miscarriage of justice cases that have gone through the US Judicial System. He hinted that the significance of the inclusion of Criminal Justice issues in the US presidential election might signal much needed and welcome reform of their system.

The challenges a trial lawyer like Jerry faces, in seeking justice for his clients and in most cases simply trying to do his job by upholding their constitutional rights, is very much akin to pushing an elephant up a hill. In the Avery case alone, 95% of the jurors that the defence had to choose a jury panel from, had already determined his client was guilty, prior to hearing any evidence in court. The system has so much built in potential for abuse of process at every turn that it served as a real eye opener for most European and Common Law lawyers to hear about his experiences.

Trial by media, prosecution mala fides, judicial prejudice, an appointment process for district attorneys and members of the bench, widespread contamination of evidence, abuse of process, expert opinion founded on incorrect/improper scientific evidence, conflicts of interest, inadequate defence representation and collusion by state law enforcement agencies were just some of the factors that contribute to the denial of justice for many US citizens and lead to an unfair trial or unsafe conviction for some of his own clients.

Reflecting on the Avery case, Jerry answered questions from a riveted audience on evidence and DNA, the intersect with a civil case involving the Manitowoc State police department and the Avery Criminal investigation and he provided a fascinating (if not frightening) insight into the US trial process. All in attendance were impressed both with Jerry’s resilience and his genuine passion to defend the interests of his clients in the face of such prejudicial adversity. When asked for his one piece of advice to distil to ambitious young lawyers, he reiterated much of Ronan Lavery QC’s earlier sentiments and advised that the greatest characteristic a lawyer could offer to any legal process, is ‘Perseverance’. Wise words indeed!

Fionntan Gamble attended the EYBA Conference that took place in Belfast April 7-9 2016 with colleagues from Dublin and Belfast.
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