Imagine a criminal defence lawyer, a former prosecutor, and a former Supreme Court judge sitting around a table talking about the wildly popular Netflix documentary, Making a Murderer.
Now imagine the former Supreme Court judge is Louise Arbour, one of the most respected (and adored) legal minds in the country. And get this — Arbour is joined by her daughter Emilie Taman, an accomplished lawyer in her own right, and son-in-law Michael Spratt, a prominent criminal lawyer in Ottawa.
It’s like a Thanksgiving dinner party right out of a legal nerd’s dream, and thanks to an iTunes podcast, we’re all invited to the party.
Spratt started the podcast, called The Docket, in May 2014 with fellow criminal lawyer Leo Russomanno. But ever since he invited Taman and Arbour to the show to talk about Making a Murder episode by episode, he says the podcast is getting about 1,000 to 5,000 downloads per day. Spratt also says The Docket’s first episode on Making a Murderer ranked number two on iTunes’ news and politics chart for Canada.
It’s hard to know where to attribute the credit for that. Is it Arbour, who brings not just her reputation but also a pleasant radio voice? Or, as Taman made it clear to Spratt, the credit is due to her. She was an NDP candidate in Ottawa-Vanier in the recent federal election and made headlines last year for challenging the Public Service Commission’s decision to bar her from running for office as a prosecutor. On the show, she and Spratt are effortlessly engaging.
But perhaps the podcast’s success is in the topic itself — the addictive, if often enraging series about Steven Avery, the Manitowoc County, Wisconsin man who was exonerated after nearly 20 years in prison for a rape he did not commit only to be locked up again following a shady conviction for murder.
The trio starts its discussion of the series on the common ground that wrongful conviction should be every judge’s, prosecutor’s, and defence counsel’s worst nightmare. At the outset, Arbour says Making a Murderer “raises tons and tons of questions, it leads the mind in all kinds of different directions, including outrage, cynicism, [and] hope.”
This week, Avery’s co-counsel Jerry Buting recorded the show with Spratt and Taman. It was an interesting discussion that touched on differences in the U.S. and Canadian court systems.
“We talked about why we don’t like cameras in the courts and elected judges versus appointed judges,” Spratt says. “Any discussion around those areas is really interesting.”
A consumer of podcasts himself, Spratt says it’s a medium he’s always been interested in. “It was a good excuse for me to talk to people whom I found interesting,” says Spratt, who has invited guests such as Senator George Baker and MP Sean Casey.
“I also thought there was sort of a lack of communication between the legal profession and the public about basic principles of our legal system — why things are done a certain way, why legislative changes are important, and how public policy [and] criminal justice policy can affect your everyday life.”
You can download The Docket for free on iTunes and read Spratt’s new criminal law column in Canadian Lawyer.