Steven Avery settled his $36 million wrongful prosecution lawsuit for just $400,000. The money covered legal costs and Steven Avery kept $0. Even so, his lawyers’ hourly pay was only about $9 an hour after expenses. The prosecution, meanwhile, was funded by an estimated $2.5 million. That’s a 10 to 1 advantage for the prosecution.
That said, defense attorneys Dean Strang and Jerry Buting have reaped unimaginable publicity from the case. Some estimates put the value of their publicity at $20 million or higher.
To date, petitions to free Steven Avery have amassed 620,000 signatures. Based on the success of Netflix’s Steven Avery documentary Making a Murderer, the movie rental giant added a record 8% to its subscriber base.
The table below collects all our Steven Avery money facts in one place.
Steven Avery Money Facts
Steven Avery Money Facts
|$36,000,000||Amount of Steven Avery's 2004 civil lawsuit against Manitowoc County DA and Sheriff's Dept. for wrongful conviction and 18 years in jail for a rape he didn't commit. DNA evidence proved another man's guilt in 2003.|
|$400,000||Amount of money Steven Avery settled his $36,000,000 lawsuit for.|
|$160,000||40% of the $400,000 settlement that paid Steven Avery's civil lawyers' expenses and fees for the lawsuit.|
|$240,000||60% of the $400,000 settlement paid to Steven Avery's defense attorneys for expenses and fees for his 2005 murder trial.|
|$0||Amount of the $400,000 settlement Steven Avery got to keep.|
|$9||Estimated hourly rate Steven Avery's criminal defense attorneys Dean Strang and Jerry Buting earned after expenses.|
|$2,500,000||Estimated money the prosecution spent trying to put Steven Avery in jail for murder.|
|10 to 1||Prosecution money vs Steven Avery defense money spent on the case.|
|8%||Record share price increase for Netflix in the last quarter of 2015 when Steven Avery's "Making a Murderer" documentary aired.|
|$3,300||Amount of money Steven Avery's website had reportedly collected in donations by 1/5/16|
|$20,000,000||Estimated value of the publicity Steven Avery's criminal lawyers Strang and Buting got from the case and the documentary.|
|Money||The reason Steven Avery's website gives for his alleged rape victim's claim that Avery probably did commit the murder.|
|4,000+||The number of combined hours Steven Avery's lawyers spent working on his murder trial.|
|$60||Dollars per hour Steven Avery's lawyers charged him.|
|$51||Dollars per hour Steven Avery's lawyers spent on overhead, office expense and trial expenses.|
|The right thing to do, the publicity, the future money.||The reasons Steven Avery's lawyer Dean Strang gave Forbes magazine for taking the murder case, in that order.|
|619,692||Number of signatures collected so far by "free Steven Avery" petitions on the web.|
Steven Avery’s $36 Million Lawsuit
In 1985, Steven Avery was convicted of rape and served 18 years in prison. In 2003, DNA evidence collected at the scene revealed that another man was actually guilty of the rape. Avery was released and filed a $36 million dollar lawsuit against the Sheriff’s Department and the DA of Manitowoc County, Wisconsin. The money was never collected.
In 2005, Steven Avery was arrested for murder. There is widespread speculation that the murder trial against Steven Avery is based on corruption. The speculation suggests officials had it in for Avery because of his massive civil suit.
Steven Avery’s $400,000 Settlement
Because of the murder trial, Steven Avery never got the full $36 million in settlement money for his wrongful conviction lawsuit. Avery instead settled the suit for $400,000. The convict has said he needed the money to defend himself in court against a well heeled prosecution.
Avery paid $160,000 of the $400,000 settlement to the lawyers in his civil suit. The $160,000 covered legal fees and expenses. Avery paid the rest of the $400,000 or $240,000 to his criminal defense attorneys. Those lawyers, Dean Strang and Jerry Buting, used most of that money for their own fees and expenses. Of the $400,000 settlement, Steven Avery kept $0.
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How Much Money Steven Avery’s Lawyers Made
The table below shows how much money Steven Avery’s lawyers made. The Making a Murderer star had two different sets of lawyers. The first set filed and pursued Avery’s civil suit against the D.A. and the Sheriff’s Dept. of Manitowoc County, Wisconsin. Avery paid $160,000 for that civil suit.
The exact breakdown of the $160,000 in civil suit costs isn’t known. That said, the expenses for the case probably ran into the tens of thousands. Based on industry insider reports, the lawyers probably kept about a third of the total $400,000 in settlement money. That would mean Steven Avery’s civil suit attorneys got paid around $135,000. They likely spent roughly $25,000 on expenses.
The more people who watch the miscarriage of justice that took place in Manitowoc, the greater chance we have of setting this right.
— Dean Strang (@deanstrangisbae) January 5, 2016
Steven Avery spent the remaining $240,000 to defend himself against the charge of murder in 2005. One of his lawyers, Dean Strang, told Forbes he didn’t get rich on that money. Consider Strang’s expenses. Strang has said he and Avery’s other criminal defense lawyer probably spent over 2,000 hours each on the case. With a total of 4,000 hours on the job, that puts their pay at $60 an hour. However, after all the fees and expenses associated with a high profile court case, their pay gets chopped to something like $9 an hour. Each lawyer works in a firm and has overhead, office expenses, administrative staff, court fees and many other expenses to cover.
Lawyers and Steven Avery Money
|Steven Avery Civil Lawyers||$160,000|
|Steven Avery Criminal Lawyers (Dean Strang, Jerry Buting)||$240,000|
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Defense vs Prosecution: Follow the Money
If $240,000 seems like a lot of money for two lawyers to split, consider the competition. A 2014 study revealed that, in the State of Washington, the prosecution can spend $2 million to $3 million prosecuting a murderer. If Steven Avery’s lawyers spent the average amount of money to convict him, that means they spent $2.5 million. That’s more than ten times what Avery spent to defend himself.
Steven Avery’s attorney Dean Strang has said the prosecution can financially “destroy” a defendant. Even a very rich defendant can quickly run out of money if he or she has to match the prosecution dollar for dollar. For example, prosecuting attorneys can summon one expensive expert witness after another. This forces the defense to pay other expensive experts to call that testimony into question. The more money the prosecution dumps into a case, the more the defense must spend. A murder trial like Steven Avery’s can quickly become a war of attrition. The one who spends less stands a good chance of losing.
Did Steven Avery’s Lawyers Do it for the Money?
Strang points out that his main reason for taking on the Steven Avery case was that it was “the right thing to do.” In a situation where the government can aim $2.5 million of prosecution at a single citizen, Strang says it’s in the public interest to have someone on the other side. That said, Strang also cited the money.
Strang’s end pay has been estimated at about $9 an hour. The way he convinced the other members of his firm to take the case was by talking up the future publicity. Strang most likely saw the case as a calculated gamble. He felt it was the right thing to do and he knew he’d make very little money on it. However, the future earnings potential from the case could pay off in spades.
Strang’s decision turned out to be the right one, financially speaking. Strang and his firm are set to reap vast gains from the case’s publicity value. The Netflix documentary Making a Murderer has reached an estimated 60 million viewers so far.
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Steven Avery’s Lawyers: Future Money Madness
Just how much is that publicity worth? It’s hard to say. Strang’s firm has received so much attention from the case he’s had to hire a public relations firm to deal with press inquiries. Some estimates put Strang’s firm’s future earning potential at an additional million per year after the high profile case. In ten years’ time, that means Strang’s firm could take in an extra $10 million. Double that for Buting’s firm and that’s a tidy $20 million.
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Netflix Made Mad Money on Steven Avery
Another Steven Avery money fact comes from movie rental giant Netflix. The DVD and streaming company added another 5.59 million viewers in the fourth quarter of 2015. That’s a record 8% growth for the movie firm. While not all the credit for the new viewers can be laid at the feet of Steven Avery and Making a Murderer, it’s a safe bet that a lot of it can.
How much money will Netflix make from Making a Murderer? Let’s assume 80% of the new viewers came from the Steven Avery documentary. Netflix’s streaming service costs $7.99 per month. 80% of 5.59 million viewers is still 4.5 million. Doing the math, Netflix earns an extra $36 million per month thanks to Steven Avery.
Even assuming only 60% of those viewers keep their subscriptions, that’s still another $257 million per year for the streaming giant. Of course some of that goes to the documentary makers, but either way Netflix owes a huge debt to Steven Avery.
Netflix Steven Avery Money
|Netflix new subscribers in third quarter of 2015||5,590,000|
|Netflix monthly money per streaming subscriber||$7.99|
|Netflix monthly money from Steven Avery (80% of new viewers)||$35,731,280|
|Netflix yearly money from Steven Avery||$257,265,216|
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Free Steven Avery: Money, Murder and the Media
The Steven Avery money story still goes on. After the expensive trial and the hugely successful documentary, Avery is still in jail. It doesn’t look like that will change any time soon. Free Steven Avery petitioners have collected almost 620,000 signatures as of 2/2/16. That said, petitions don’t help much in criminal cases like this. The petitions call for Presidential pardons. The President can’t pardon state prisoners.
— Missfit (@iamamissfit) January 15, 2016
Media attention to the Steven Avery case shows no signs of waning. The case has been explored on radio, TV, YouTube and in countless blogs. While Steven Avery may stay behind bars, his reach and popularity are growing by the day.