Making a Murderer: Sudbury forensics expert reflects on his testimony at Steven Avery trial

A Sudbury forensics expert is watching developments around the Netflix true-crime mega-hit Making a Murderer with more interest than most: Dr. Scott Fairgrieve testified for Steven Avery's defense team during the 2007 trial.

Dr. Scott Fairgrieve called as defense witness at 'Wisconsin's trial of the century'

Dr. Scott Fairgrieve, head of Forensic Science at Laurentian University in Sudbury, testified at the high-profile murder trial of Wisconsin man Steven Avery in 2007. That trial is now the subject of a sensationally popular true crime documentary on Netflix. "I would like to think that the problems that they had with that evidence there couldn't happen here," says Fairgrieve. "There's enough about [Avery's] case to raise some eyebrows."

A Sudbury forensics expert is watching developments around the Netflix true-crime mega-hit Making a Murderer with more interest than most: Dr. Scott Fairgrieve testified for the defense during the 2007 trial. 

Fairgrieve, who is chair of Forensic Science at Sudbury's Laurentian University, said he was contacted by Steven Avery's defense lawyers.

Jerome Buting and Dean Strang asked Fairgrieve to review a forensic anthropology report from the site where charred human remains — those of Teresa Halbach — were recovered on Avery's property.

"And they said, 'It's quite a compelling case'," said Fairgrieve. "At the time, they said they wanted to — I'm not so much sure as it was warn me — but let me know that this was Wisconsin's trial of the century."

Steven Avery, right, and his defense attorney Jerome Buting, listen to Calumet County District Attorney Ken Kratz give his closing argument in the courtroom on Wednesday, March 14, 2007, at the Calumet County Courthouse in Chilton, Wis. (AP Photo/Morry Gash, Pool) (AP)

Fairgrieve said the trial was sensational, with heavy media coverage every day of the proceedings. Avery, who stood accused of murder, had already made the front pages when, after 18 years behind bars, he was exonerated for a sexual assault he did not commit

Fairgrieve was called upon to sift through photographs and reports from the scene where Halbach's remains were found. The big question: was her body burned on Avery's property, or was it burned somewhere else and then moved? 

On the stand

Fairgrieve characterized the way the prosecution questioned him at trial as something of a game of cat and mouse. 

"They said, 'So you didn't actually see the remains' — which is quite true — I saw all the photographs and all the documentation and everything that was disclosed by them, which is supposed to be a complete record. And I said, 'No, I didn't get a chance to go to the scene ... the scene had been so destroyed [by investigators] by the time I would've been there it just — there was no point," said Fairgrieve. 

Ultimately, Fairgrieve said in his professional opinion, one could not conclude with perfect certainty that the remains had not been moved. 

"As a forensic scientist, I'd say you're right to question this," he said of the defense team's assertion. 

"I think there should've been a mistrial, myself," said Fairgrieve. 

Listen to the complete interview with Dr. Scott Fairgrieve here

"Making a Murderer" is a Netflix true crime documentary series that follows the case of Wisconsin man Steve Avery. It's taken the internet and TV by storm. Forensic scientist Scott Fairgrieve of Sudbury told us how he ended up in the series. 12:18


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