MILWAUKEE, WI – Despite a steady decline in homicide rates nationwide, Wisconsin saw a spike in what criminal experts classify as ‘white collar murders’ in 2016. The FBI defines ‘white collar murder’ as one perpetrated by a person making $250,000 or more per year. In the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics’ report published Monday morning, the number of affluent killings tripled–from 16 in 2015, to 47 in 2016. According to some, the increase is not without cause.
Dr. Kenneth Cohen, adjunct professor of sociology at Marquette University, believes this dramatic increase is a direct result of the Netflix documentary series Making a Murderer, “The show released on December 18, 2015 and in the months since, the number of homicides whose prime suspect is a wealthy individual has tripled from the numbers seen in 2015. Of course no one has been convicted yet. We need to give the accused their due process but this didn’t happen by accident.”
The hugely popular show has thrust the murder trial of Steven Avery into the national spotlight and made celebrities of Avery’s attorneys: Dean Strang and Jerry Buting. According to Cohen, the high priced and eloquent defense of Avery presented in the series has made others jealous, “I believe we can attribute the spike to wealthy individuals wanting Buting and Strang to serve as their legal counsel in a murder trial. Their brilliant defense of Avery is now well-known and as a result, their fees reflect that. Remember, Avery had to settle his lawsuit just to hire them. Presumably, the numbers reported would be even higher if not for the high retainer.”
While his theory may provide a plausible reason for the sudden spike, Cohen struggles to answer all the questions it raises. “I hope those accused remember that despite his team’s best efforts, Avery was still found guilty. If you wanted Buting and Strang’s representation, surely there are better ways. I truly hope my theory is wrong but I don’t see it. Of all the reasons to not commit murder, and there are infinite, this has to be towards the top.”