The public’s fascination with Netflix’s new crime documentary Making A Murderer only seems to be increasing as more and more people watch the series. As we speak, an army of journalists are going over evidence and courtroom transcripts looking to clarify what we all saw in the 10+ hour show. And then there’s a constant stream of new interviews and statements being made by everyone from the lawyers and sheriffs involved to people like Steven Avery’s ex-fiance and Penny Beerntsen, whose case wrongfully put Avery in jail back in 1985.
Up to this point, most of the interviews we’ve seen on behalf of Steven Avery have involved the head defense attorney from his 2006 trial, Dean Strang. But now Rolling Stone has gotten in touch with Avery’s other defense lawyer, Jerry Buting, and asked him what bit of evidence he felt wasn’t given enough attention in Making A Murderer. And as you’d expect from a lawyer, he’s got some pretty compelling arguments:
[T]he issue about the bones — the bones were really a very important issue. They’re really an important issue because where the body was burned should have determined guilt or innocence alone, ignoring everything else, because if the jury believed or understood that this body was burned elsewhere then the fact that there were the majority of her bones were found in his burn pit should have proven that he was not the killer. Because nobody would burn a body somewhere else, gather up their bones and then go and dump them in their own backyard. That’s ludicrous, right?
Now, the state argued that most of [the bones] were burned there, but they have no explanation — never offered in either trial [an explanation] — as to why, if, in fact, the body was burned right outside Mr. Avery’s garage, why would any of the bones move? And why were only a few of them moved? Why would you find some of them — that were clearly identified as her bones — in a burn barrel over by Bobby Dassey’s house, for instance? And why would there be human pelvis bones found a quarter-, a half-mile away in a burn gravel pit?
The documentary makes passing mention of a quarry gravel pit that may have been a third burn site for Teresa Halbach’s remains, but never gets too deep into the subject. That may be because pieces of a pelvis found there were never conclusively identified as Halbach’s. Experts weren’t even able to conclusively say they were human. Here’s Jerry Buting’s thoughts on the remains:
There was a burn site where they found what the state expert believed were female human pelvic bones that were [Teresa Halbach’s]. But, you see, the thing about bones [is] — unless there’s tissue attached, they can’t do a normal DNA test that would prove [with] a very high probability who’s it is. In the burn pit, they did find a portion of one bone that had some of that tissue on it, and that’s how they made an identification of Teresa Halbach. The bones in the burn barrel, likewise.
But the bones in the gravel pit — they were not able to identify whose bones they were exactly, but they were pelvis bones. They appeared, based on the expert’s opinion, to be human and consistent with a female — I can’t remember if she said “young” female — and most importantly, they appeared to have the same type of degree and pattern of burning or calcination, as they call it, as the ones that were found in the burn barrel behind the Bobby Dassey house and the burn pit behind Steven Avery’s house.
This is, once again, where we have to take someone’s word that certain evidence means one thing or another. Steven Avery’s defense lawyers say the quarry pelvis is probably Halbach’s and have an expert who claims burn patterns match it to remains found in Avery’s burn pit. The prosecution would rather focus on the fact that the pelvis can’t be linked to Halbach via DNA and may not even be human.
Oh, if only we didn’t have an adversarial system of justice where two sides fight each other in an attempt to ‘win’ a case. If a definitive answer could be determined regarding the origins of the quarry bones, wouldn’t that serve justice better than leaving things up to who argued their opinion on the matter more effectively?
(via Rolling Stone)