Fans of the Netflix show “Making a Murderer” haven’t held their tongues in criticizing Brendan Dassey’s lawyer, Len Kachinsky, and his strategies during the juvenile’s initial defense, but the public defender still insists nothing he did had any effect on the outcome of Dassey’s case.
“Frankly, I’m not responsible for Dassey going to prison,” Kachinsky told TheWrap. “You can say I made a mistake, that I should’ve [attended] or I should have rescheduled the interview — that’s valid criticism.”
“Making a Murderer” follows the trial and conviction of Steven Avery and Brendan Dassey in the murder of Teresa Halbach, which both Avery and Dassey say they didn’t commit. However, on Mar. 1, 2006, Dassey confessed in a lengthy interview that he was part of the brutal rape, torture and killing of Halbach, only to retract those statements over the intervening months.
In multiple interviews with investigators and law enforcement thereafter — namely on May 12 and May 13 — Dassey was being seemingly manipulated by investigators Michael O’Kelly, Tom Fassbender and Mark Wiegart into confessing. And Kachinsky, Dassey’s appointed lawyer, was criticized for allowing his client to be interviewed without legal representation.
For those who haven’t seen “Making a Murderer,” the Mar. 1 video shows Dassey being interviewed on a sofa over four and a half hours. The May 12 interrogation is led by Michael O’Kelly, who interviewed Dassey on behalf of Kachinsky. At this point, Dassey’s defense team was trying to play into Dassey’s perceived guilt to reduce his own culpability, making him the primary witness against Steven Avery. O’Kelly laid out photographs from the crime scene and elicited a confession from Dassey, including a drawing of what happened in Avery’s trailer.
Shortly after, O’Kelly calls Kachinsky reporting that the interview went “very well.” He then asks whether he should make an appointment with state Department of Justice investigator Tom Fassbender, who along with Mark Wiegart later interviews Brendan on May 13. Kachinsky was not present for any of the interviews.
However, Kachinsky clarifies to TheWrap that the only interview used in trial was the Mar. 1 confession — one for which he wasn’t present because he didn’t yet represent Dassey, who at the time wasn’t a suspect. Kachinsky called criticism of him “unfair.”
“Mar. 1, 2006, before being arrested, Dassey gives a four-and-a-half-hour video tape confession to everything,” Kachinsky said. “There is no other statement from Dassey that was admitted for this trial other than that one. The one with the investigators was unfortunately a little rough, but that was never used at Dassey’s trial.”
This is why Kachinsky believes that nothing he did — or didn’t do — had any effect on the outcome of the trial.
“None of the stuff anyone has complained about, namely the O’Kelly interview and the one with Fassbender which occurred in May, none of that was used in trial,” he said.
Still, Kachinsky admits that he made a mistake, and that he should have been there at the May 13 interrogation.
“I would have been there apart from the fact that I had Army Reserve duty the day they wanted to do the interview,” he explained. “In 20/20 hindsight, I should have asked them to delay the interview until the middle of the week when I was going to be able to make it … But it would have made no difference in the outcome of Dassey’s case.”