Canada's justice system is superior, says Making A Murderer lawyer
U.S. lawyer brings A Conversation on Justice tour to Toronto on June 11
A defence lawyer for Steven Avery featured in the popular Nextflix documentary series Making a Murderer says the U.S. justice system could take lessons from Canada's approach to the courts.
Dean Strang and fellow Avery lawyer Jerry Buting will bring their A Conversation on Justice tour to the Sony Centre for the Performing Arts in Toronto on Saturday.
In advance of their Canadian visit, Strang said the duo had given thought to how best to tailor their talk to their audience north of the border.
"I think part of what you'll hear, honestly, is admiration from us for aspects of the Canadian system that, I think, are superior to ours," Strang said in a recent phone interview from New York.
He cited the merit appointment for judges in Canada, unlike in the U.S. where they are elected, as are sheriffs. Strang also pointed to what he described as a "superior" defence system for those who are in financial need and require legal assistance.
"Your police service training at the provincial level is more uniform ... than police training in smaller U.S. communities which isn't so uniformly organized at the state level, for example," he added.
Strang and Buting embarked on a multi-city speaking tour in April, which continues through August, where they discuss the Avery case and broader elements of the U.S. criminal justice system.
The duo have become household names since Making a Murderer began streaming on Netflix last year. They're featured in the documentary defending Avery in a first-degree intentional homicide trial in the 2005 death of photographer Teresa Halbach.
The 10-part series follows the story of Avery, a Wisconsin native wrongfully convicted of the brutal assault of Penny Beerntsen, and later exonerated after 18 years behind bars.
Avery had sued Manitowoc County for tens of millions of dollars before he and his nephew, Brendan Dassey, were arrested in Halbach's death.
Avery was sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole, and he is currently seeking release on bond.
U.S. legal system questioned
The documentary series cast doubt on the legal process used to convict the pair and has generated widespread interest.
"I think that opinion is quite divided on whether Stephen Avery is guilty or innocent," said Strang, who is still in touch with Avery's family and his current lawyer, Kathleen Zellner.
"But what I think is really very common is people saying: 'Well, regardless of what I feel about his guilt or innocence, this isn't the way I thought the system was supposed to work. I see some dark corners in our system here and some things that strike me as wrong or, at minimum, just very questionable.'
"My sense is that that's part of the reason for the viral spread."
Since embarking on the tour, Strang said they've fielded questions from audience members about how they can help effect change in their communities.
"We talk to them about the opportunity to get involved either with charities or social action non-profits — and that doesn't always take money," said Strang. "Time is valuable, or even signing online petitions can be valuable.
"We also discuss the importance of not ducking jury duty, and how much courage it can take to do jury duty correctly to implement and internalize the stated values of the system," he said.
"Probably more than anything, we encourage them to just take this conversation to work, to home, to friends."
With files from The Associated Press