“Making a Murderer” subject Brendan Dassey’s legal proceedings are not over, says his former lawyer Len Kachinsky, but the attorney won’t be participating.
“I will not be further involved in Dassey’s case,” Kachinsky told TheWrap. “I have no opinion as to his factual guilt or innocence. I expect the State will appeal.”
He added: “It should be noted that the ground on which the new trial was ordered was Judge Fox’s denial of a motion I filed and litigated to keep Dassey’s March 2006 statement out of evidence. So I did my job and kept Dassey’s option open.”
Nine years after Dassey and his uncle, Steven Avery, were found guilty in the murder of Teresa Halbach, Dassey’s conviction was overturned on Friday. Federal magistrate judge William E. Duffin granted Dassey’s writ for a petition of habeas corpus, finding that his imprisonment was unlawful because his confession to the murder was involuntary. In reaching that decision, Duffin wrote that the “misconduct” of Kachinsky, Dassey’s court-appointed attorney, was “indefensible.”
“Making a Murderer,” which has been a hit since it debuted last December on Netflix, suggested that Kachinsky made a deal that put his client behind bars when he should have tried to prove Dassey’s innocence.
While the criminal case against him may not be over, Dassey could sue police or even Kachinsky for millions of dollars, legal experts say, although winning won’t be easy.
“He could sue his lawyer for putting him in the hands of his investigators, who just ripped him a new one,” Steve Cron, a veteran criminal defense attorney and Pepperdine University law professor, told TheWrap. Cron added that Kachinsky had committed what amounted to “malpractice.”
It is difficult to determine how much of an influence the series and ensuing media coverage had on the ruling, especially since Dassey’s habeas petition was filed more than a year before the series debuted.
“My experience with federal judges is that they’re very careful about having outside influences affect their decisions,” attorney and UC Berkeley adjunct law professor Ramiah Brien said. “Especially in a case like this, I don’t think the judge would want the appearance that he was influenced by something other than what the attorneys were arguing in that brief.”