Did Steven Avery Almost Lose Buting And Strang?
I don’t think Buting and Strang would have abandoned Steven if they would have lost the below court case, but they would have been very limited on their defense strategy during the trial.
Below is from Redditor Nexious and they go into detail of how Tim Halbach, Teresa’s brother, filed a civil lawsuit against Steven Avery the next day after he settled his wrongful conviction suit with the county – BEFORE the criminal case trail… WHAT?!?
I have been heavily researching some of the more obscure side-stories of the Halbach case. One of which is the timing and motive behind a civil lawsuit filed against Avery by Halbach’s lawyer brother a year before Avery was tried criminally, and the day after he settled the Manitowoc civil case.
This Halbach civil case and the motions by their attorneys had all the earmarks to prohibit Avery from any effective counsel for his criminal case; he was barred from getting a public defender and the Halbachs attempted to freeze all of his available funds used for Stang and Buting’s legal work. Below I will summarize these events with details taken from local sources:
On February 15, 2006, Steven Avery settled the civil lawsuit with the county for $400,000. $160,000 of this was held by the judge to cover legal costs, so Avery was left with $240,000. Effective immediately, the court disallowed Avery from having a public defender for the criminal case (formerly Erik Loy) due to his financial status.
On February 16, 2006, the very next day, Teresa Halbach’s brother/attorney Tim abruptly filed a civil lawsuit in Calumet County against Avery on behalf of the family seeking an unspecified amount of money. Note that Avery was still a year away from the criminal trial and as such was presumed innocent by the court of law (in theory, at least). Mike Halbach told the media that “the civil suit isn’t about money, but about justice” and the brother who filed it said it was “our remedy” for Teresa. Of course, the only possible outcome from any civil lawsuit is exactly that–money.
On February 18, 2006, Steven Avery transferred his available funds to a trust account on retainer for Strang and Buting’s legal defense, since he no longer qualified for a public defender.
On March 23, 2006, attorneys for the Halbachs asked the judge to freeze any money that Avery still had remaining from the civil settlement. They also planned a motion to freeze all future earnings of Avery as well until after their case concluded (i.e., long after the criminal trial concluded). The attorney for Halbach even admitted that this request to freeze all of a person’s funds in a civil case “is not typical, but it is certainly justifiable in this case.” At Avery’s request, the civil case was allowed to move to Manitowoc County.
On March 24, 2006, Judge Willis (the judge in the criminal case) recused himself from this civil lawsuit. He was replaced with Judge Deets.
On May 23, 2006, the Halbach family called Avery’s transfer of funds to the trust account held by Strang “illegal” since it wouldn’t allow them to collect money it if they’d win the civil case. The Halbach attorney proclaimed: “You cannot transfer all your funds to a nonrefundable retainer when you have a lawsuit against you.” By this point, 60% of the available funds had already been exhausted by Avery’s legal team, according to Strang.
On June 23, 2006, Judge Deets denyed the Halbach request to freeze these funds, stating: “The timing is suspicious, but it is equally plausible it was based on Avery’s receipt of his settlement, his immediate loss of public defender services and his negotiation to obtain competent substitute counsel just before the Halbach suit was filed.”
As you see here, had Judge Deets sided with the Halbachs’ in this ruling, Steven Avery and in turn his defense attorneys would had been deprived of any funds for the duration of the case. Yet, he also was not allowed to have a public defender due to this settlement as well. This is pretty jarring to me.
At least one astute resident of Green Bay noted this situation at the time and called it out in a letter to the editor of the local Manitowoc paper, quoted below:
Herald Times Reporter
June 1, 2006
Letter to the editor: Legal system is crooked with regards to Avery
What kind of cockeyed legal hocus-pocus is this?
On the one hand, a judge rules that a man no longer qualifies for a public defender, due to the fact that he has funds to defend himself.
Now we have a lawsuit, which is trying to prevent those funds from being used for his defense. The lawsuit is based on the pre-jury-trial supposition that Steve Avery is guilty of murder.
Supposedly in the American system of jurisprudence, a man is innocent until proven guilty. But Steve Avery’s guilt or innocence has yet to be determined in a court of law.
Such a lawsuit should not even be allowed consideration until after the jury trial has been completed. This is unless of course, everybody’s minds are already made up and the jury trial is nothing more than a big show.
May God help anybody who is ever caught up in a crooked legal system like this.
Isn’t that weird?!? How can you file a civil suit against a person who wasn’t even tried for the murder yet? How can you be so sure he would have been found guilty?!
There are so many backward things about this case. It’s unbelievable. Good thing Buting and Strang were able to prevent the money from being frozen and from being awesome lawyers at defending Steven!