'Making a Murderer' Makes Lawyer Hero ... Just in Time

By Ephrat Livni, Esq. on January 06, 2016 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Lawyer jokes abound and attorneys are widely mocked and reviled. But the Netflix documentary Making a Murderer has given many Americans a new lawyer to love. And he came just in time, according to The New Republic.

One of the defense attorneys featured in the documentary, Dean Strang, has been making headlines and finding fans based on his portrayal in the series, which covers the murder trial of Steven Avery in 2007, who spent 18 years in prison for a crime he did not commit only to be accused of murder while his exoneration proceedings were happening. Along with defense lawyers Jerome Buting, Dean Strang has been called a hero for standing by Avery, and their timing could not be better.

Goodbye Atticus Finch

The nation's favorite defense attorney used to be the mythical lawyer created by Harper Lee in her classic novel To Kill a Mockingbird. But release of an earlier version of the novel this year, entitled Go Set a Watchman, revealed an Atticus Finch less concerned with justice and more of a racist, and Atticus had to go.

Despite the inspiring lines he spoke in the classic novel, the lawyer seen in the more recently released book could no longer claim the title of the ideal American attorney. "America creates lawyer heroes only to be betrayed by them, and yet the cycle continues," writes Sarah Weinman, a writer and editor of crime fiction.

"Atticus Finch may be lost, but now here's Dean Strang. That thoughtful, caring figure we watched in Making A Murderer, is certainly rooted in his true self. But that truth has been heightened and edited, and relies on our need to make a hero out of a lawyer, a cultural fix that comes around once every few decades."

The Good Fight

Weinman reviews the new hero's writing and the national need for lawyer heroes, finding Strang's literary efforts admirable (although she does not sound wowed). He wrote a book about another lawyer hero, Clarence Darrow.

As for why we need lawyer heroes, she writes of Strang, "We can imagine him completing Atticus Finch's speech: 'You rarely win, but sometimes you do.'"

In other words, we have to believe that there are some people who cannot be corrupted and who will fight losing battles just because it is the right thing to do. Dean Strang fits, and he was in a film, so he will fill Atticus Finch's mythical shoes.

But in fact, every day, all over the country, there are hero lawyers who fight the good fight with no recognition, no acclaim, and often very little pay. Making a Murderer highlights the good, the bad, and the ugly in people and the system.

Contact Counsel

If you or anyone you know has been accused of a crime, do not delay. Speak to a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. You don't need a famous lawyer or even a fancy one -- just a lawyer who will do the right thing and fight for you. Many criminal defense attorneys will consult for free or a minimal fee. Get help.

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