‘Making a Murderer’ attorney addresses Law Library
Dean Strang tells audience at Dublin event that ‘almost everyone is a criminal’
US attorney Dean Strang and Paul McGarry SC, chairman of the Bar of Ireland, at the launch of the Bar of Ireland’s 2017 Innocence Project scholarships at the Law Library, Dublin. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons/The Irish Times
Mr Strang was speaking on Wednesday at the launch of the Bar of Ireland’s 2017 Innocence Scholarships at the Law Library in Dublin.
Addressing the gathering of barristers on the subject of ‘How can you defend those people?’, he spoke about his experience of miscarriages of justice and emphasised the important role played by the Innocence Project and the legal professionals who participate in them.
Mr Strang said the distinction between people who consider themselves law-abiding and criminals does not exist.
“You and I, and nearly all of us, are criminals too. Ever smoked a little marijuana? Ever tried cocaine? Shared a little bit in university? Maybe some people here have sold cocaine or pot or pills here and there. Maybe you shoplifted as a young person from time to time.
“Maybe at university you groped a fellow student or kissed someone who was drunk or beyond faculties of consent,” said Mr Strang.
“In the US, about one-in-four Americans has a criminal record. Functionally, the rest of us just haven’t been caught or prosecuted,” he said.
Mr Strang is an attorney in Wisconsin, US, and one of the most compelling figures in the Netflix documentary series about the case of Steven Avery, whose conviction for sexual assault was overturned when his case was taken on by the Wisconsin Innocence Project.
Founded in 1992, the Innocence Project is a US litigation and public policy organisation dedicated to exonerating wrongfully convicted individuals through DNA testing and reforming the criminal justice system to prevent future injustice.
When asked if he thought Mr Kenny should cancel his scheduled visit to US president Donald Trump on St Patrick’s Day, where Mr Kenny is due to raise the issue of illegal Irish immigrants in the US, he said:“I don’t want to wade into Irish politics or American politics on that issue.
“I think that it’s a really challenging time for the world and some controversial actions have been taken by the Trump administration.
“I will go no further than to say, I don’t think this is a time to stop conversations among people, including blunt and forthright areas of disagreement,” he said.
Mr Strang was also asked about his opinions on the proposed Judicial Appointments Commission Bill.
The Bill would establish a council to review the appointment and promotion of judges. The council would include a lay majority, who would have to have been approved by the Public Appointments Service.
When asked about his thoughts on the measures in the Bill, which is expected to be published next month, Mr Strang said: “The older I get, and the crankier I get, [I think] electing judges is an awful idea. It’s a terrible idea. It ain’t a good idea, as we would say,” he said.
The Bar of Ireland provides Innocence Project scholarships on an annual basis.
This year, five barristers will be sponsored to travel to the US to participate in Innocence Projects.