Kathleen Zellner’s Cases: Who Has She Exonerated? (2022)

Kathleen Zellner’s Cases: Who Has She Exonerated? (1)

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Kathleen Zellner,Steven Avery’s defense attorney, is making waves during the second season ofMaking a Murderer, which followsthe trials ofSteven Avery and Brendan Dassey, who were both convicted in Wisconsin state court for the murder of photographer Teresa Halbach.

Zellner, an attorney for more than 26 years in the Chicago area, specializes in helping overturn wrongful convictions for innocent men and women in prison. HerTwitter biocurrently reads: “Unmaking ‘Murderers’: One False Conviction at a Time.” According to an article byNewsweek, she has “secured the exoneration of 17 men and won almost $90 million from wrongful conviction and medical malpractice lawsuits.” Zellner intends to make Avery her 18th exoneration.

Lunch w/3 of our exonorees today. L-R Calvin Ollins (2001) Ryan Ferguson (2013) Mario Casciaro (2015) #Freedom #SoSpecial pic.twitter.com/QChm3s9U4l

— Kathleen Zellner (@ZellnerLaw) November 3, 2017

According to Zellner, she will not represent someone she believes is guilty. One of the first things she says to her clients is: “If you are guilty, I will do a way better job of finding out you are guilty than any prosecutor could.”

“You would have to be an idiot to hire me and be proved guilty,” she said during the second season ofMaking a Murderer.

So who were some of the previous wrongfully convicted men that Zellner helped free from prison? Here are some of the high-profile cases that Zellner took part in beforeMaking a Murderer.

Ryan Ferguson

Kathleen Zellner’s Cases: Who Has She Exonerated? (2)

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Ryan Ferguson was accused of beating and killing newspaper editor Kent Heitholt on Halloween in 2001 and sentenced to 40 years in prison. Ferguson was 17 at the time of the murder, and implicated in the crime by a friend who claimed to have been partying with Ferguson on the night of the murder. Ferguson was convicted in the fall of 2005 on the basis of Erickson’s testimony as well as the testimony of a building employee, according to CBS.

He was released in 2013 aftersix former Columbia police officers were found liable for fabricating evidence and violating Ferguson’s civil rights by coercing false witness testimony, falsifying evidence and neglecting to follow up on other potential leads while investigating the Heitholt murder, according to Columbia Missourian.

Kathleen Zellner’s Cases: Who Has She Exonerated? (3)

NEW YORK, NY – APRIL 19: Kathleen Zellner (L) and Ryan Ferguson attend the premiere of “dream/killer” during the 2015 Tribeca Film Festival at Chelsea Bow Tie Cinemas on April 19, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Monica Schipper/Getty Images for the 2015 Tribeca Film Festival)

Despite Zellner’s determination to see Avery’s case through to the end, and her promises of being in it “for the long haul,”Zellner wasn’t so sure about taking Avery’s case in the beginning. Sheinitially declined to take upAvery’s case when it first ended up on her desk, long before she’d seenMaking a Murderer,according to Newsweek. It wasn’t until Ferguson told her to watch the show because the case reminded him of his own that she decided to dig deeper into Avery’s case.

Omar Saunders,Calvin Ollins andLarry Ollins

Help us wish Larry and Calvin Ollins, Omar Saunders, + Marcellius Bradford a happy 16th year of freedom. The men were just teens when they were wrongly convicted of murdering a medical student in Chicago in 1986. They were represented by @ZellnerLaw: https://t.co/rRsmXI9ZJS pic.twitter.com/Jaxlwb27Px

— Innocence Project (@innocence) December 6, 2017

Saunders and cousins Calvin and Larry Ollins were convicted of the rape and murder of Chicago medical student Lori Roscetti in 1986, according to the Chicago Tribune. The men filed a lawsuit againstChicago police, city crime lab workers and a Cook County prosecutor, who were all accused of “framing [Saunders, Ollins and Ollins] by coercing confessions and conspiring to present false testimony at their trials.” The lawsuit describes an alleged conspiracy that grew out of the Police Department’s frustration at their failure to solve the high-profile October 1986 murder of Roscetti.

DNA evidence was used to free the three men after they, and a fourth man who was in prison for another crime, were convicted of the murder. The evidence, presented by Zellner and her team, proved semen found at the scene did not belong to any of the convicted men. They were freed in 2001.

Joseph Burrows

Joseph Burrows: #InnocentOnDeathRow '89-'96 Convicted on testimony of Gayle Potter, who later confessed she alone had committed the murder. pic.twitter.com/VFKAnygj0Z

— Death Penalty Fail (@DeathPenalty_F) November 27, 2016

Burrows was convicted of murdering William Dulin in Kankakee, Illinois, in 1988, and sentenced to die. Burrows was falsely accused by a woman, Gayle Potter, who cashed a check in the victim’s name. Her blood was found at the scene and she owned the murder weapon, according to the National Registry of Exonerations.

Peter Rooney, a reporter for theChampaign-Urbana News-Gazette,obtained a recantation from a key witness against Burrows, and the case was re-opened.Zellner and her team discovered a letter written by Potter, which asked another friend to testify against Burrows. Zellner eventually persuaded Potter to confess to killing Dulin at the post-conviction hearing. Burrows was released in 1994 after sitting on death row for 5 years.

Kevin Fox

Murder of Riley Fox: American three-year-old girl who was reported missing in Wilmington, Illinois. pic.twitter.com/4CnHCq9eh6

— WikiTedium (@WikiTedium) December 27, 2014

Fox was convicted of killing his 3-year-old-daughter Riley,who was bound with duct tape and sexually assaulted before she was murdered. Rileywas taken from her Wilmington home in 2004 while sleeping in flamingo pajamas with a Dora the Explorer blanket, brutally sexually assaulted and then drowned in a creek. The prosecution quickly denied the idea of a sexual predator and Fox was convicted in 2004, despite the fact that there were a suspicious pair of shoes found near the scene of the crime with the name ‘Eby’ written on the tongue.

Scott Wayne Eby eventually confessed to the crime after DNA evidence linked him to to the crime scene and a vague tip was given to police, who followed up and interviewed Eby. Eby was was already in prison for raping a relative and had tried to take his own life several times before confessing to killing Riley. Foxwas released from prison in 2005 after Zellner argued that Fox was framed and won his family $8 million in damages in 2010, theChicago Tribunereported.

Billy Wardell

Kathleen Zellner’s Cases: Who Has She Exonerated? (4)

Wardell and his boyhood friendDonald Reynolds were wrongfully accused of a sexual assault and robbery in Chicago in 1986. After two women were violently assaulted by a group of three men, they pointed Wardell out in a lineup, who was already picked up and being held on a separate charge. Wardell was identified by both women as being involved in the assault.

According to the Innocence Project, Wardell went to prison in 1988 and the state’s only evidence against the men consisted of the victim’s identification of Wardell and “incorrect serological testimony connecting Reynolds to the crime.”

Wardell was exonerated in 1997 after Zellner argued for testing on DNA samples that had previously been denied. When tested, the DNA found in semen proved it could not have come from Wardell, according to the National Registry of Exonerations.

Jerry Hobbs

This is what happens when the wrong man is prosecuted. Our client Jerry Hobbs not only lost his daughter but he was wrongfully prosecuted for her murder while this monster was free and killed again. ⁦@lifeafterten⁩ ⁦@michellemalkin#Disgracefu https://t.co/NVlJOqpIlq

— Kathleen Zellner (@ZellnerLaw) September 18, 2018

Hobbs was wrongfully accused of murdering his daughter and her friend, whose bodies were found in a Lake County park in 2005. Hobbs was in prison for five years until DNA evidence proved sperm found was from someone else, who was a convicted rapist and formerly accused of murder,CBS Chicagoreported.

According to theLaw Office of Kathleen Zellner website, “Kathleen Zellner settled Jerry Hobbs civil rights case for $7,750,000.00. Mr. Hobbs was incarcerated for 66 months. The largest civil rights settlement to date in Lake County. This the the largest pre-trial detainee settlement in the United States and in Illinois.”

Alprentiss Nash

Alprentiss Nash: Chicago Man Released From Wrongful 17-Year Imprisonment Shot Dead http://t.co/mDAfZyGo41 pic.twitter.com/3Y3Lc2APFl

— Tids (@Tids_tweet) July 31, 2015

According to CBS Chicago, Nash was convicted in the 1995 murder of Leon Stroud on Chicago’s South Side, based on witness testimony. In 1997, he was sentenced to 80 years in prison. Nash spent 17 years in prison before DNA evidence on a ski mask proved that he wasn’t connected to the case, with the help of Zellner and her team.

Nash later received a certificate of innocence and a settlement of more than $200,000 from the state, but was shot and killed in a failed robbery attempt three years after his release from prison.

Those listed above are just a handful of the men and women Zellner has helped exonerate over the last few decades. For a full list of those she has helped, check out her website.

READ NEXT: Making a Murderer 3: Will There Be a Third Season?

FAQs

Who else has Kathleen Zellner? ›

Five famous Kathleen Zellner cases as Johnny Depp appoints lawyer
  • Steven Avery. The case of Steven Avery, which is still active, came to public attention in Netflix's Making A Murderer. ...
  • Kevin Fox. Kevin Fox was arrested after being accused of the murder of his three-year-old daughter. ...
  • Ryan Ferguson. ...
  • Alprentiss Nash.
14 Feb 2022

Are Steven Avery's parents? ›

Steven Avery

How many cases overturned Kathleen Zellner? ›

Zellner & Associates in Downers Grove, Illinois, in 1991. Her firm handles wrongful conviction cases, civil rights violations, medical malpractice, and prisoner abuse cases. Zellner had achieved 19 exonerations as of October 2018, and now 20 exonerations for clients.

Why did Brendan Dassey not get released? ›

Despite these steps forward for juvenile justice, Dassey remains in prison. The United States Supreme Court has refused to hear Dassey's case, so he has exhausted his judicial paths of appeal. A sentence commutation from Evers is his only remaining chance. "Why that (power) has not been exercised by Gov.

Where is Brendan Dassey now? ›

Dassey and his uncle Steven Avery were convicted and sentenced in the 2005 murder of Teresa Halbach in Manitowoc County. Dassey is sentenced to life in prison, with the earliest possibility for parole in 2048. Years later, the Netflix documentary "Making a Murderer" is still resonating with people around the world.

Is Dolores Avery still alive? ›

Is Catherine Zellner married? ›

Where is Tom Fassbender now? ›

Fassbender joined the Wisconsin Department of Criminal Investigation in 1985 and has since retired from Wisconsin law enforcement. He moved to Nevada, where he worked hotel security in Las Vegas.

Is Kathleen Zellner representing Johnny Depp? ›

Depp selected Kathleen Zellner, an American lawyer who appeared in the Netflix series 'Making a Murderer', as a legal consultant because he watched her on the show and remembered her stating that she was "the last person someone would hire if they were guilty."

How good is Kathleen Zellner? ›

Zellner and her team of trial lawyers have won groundbreaking judgments and verdicts — and tens of millions of dollars in damages — for clients from all walks of life. Ms. Zellner is the only attorney in the country to have won five multi-million dollar verdicts in less than a year.

What does Ken Kratz do now? ›

Ken Kratz: The Avery case prosecutor says he has overcome an addiction to prescription pain pills since the trial and gone through the public humiliation of a sexting scandal. He maintains his license and now serves as a defense attorney.

What happened to Steven Avery's nephew? ›

Avery's nephew, Brendan Dassey, was convicted of first-degree intentional homicide and two lesser felonies. He's serving a life sentence. Netflix explored the killing in 2015 in the first season of its 10-part "Making a Murderer" series.

How long was Brendan Dassey interrogation? ›

This version of events would be devastating to the state's case if it ever reached Avery's jury. The police decided to interrogate young Dassey again. For their next go-around they questioned him four times in 48 hours—each time without an adult present and often without reading him his Miranda rights.

Did Brendan Dassey ever get released? ›

After his conviction, Dassey's case was taken by the Center on Wrongful Convictions of Youth. In August 2016, a federal magistrate judge ruled that Dassey's confession had been coerced and overturned his conviction and ordered him released, which was delayed during appeal.

Where is Steve Avery? ›

In June, Avery was moved to medium security at Fox Lake Correctional Institution upon Zellner's request. He had previously been housed at maximum security Waupun Correctional Institution. Avery's nephew, Brendan Dassey, was also convicted of killing Halbach.

How old is Steven Avery? ›

Who is Lori Dassey married to? ›

Lori Dassey

Is Bobby Dassey married? ›

Is Steven Avery's dad? ›

How is Kathleen Zellner funded? ›

Zellner told Newsweek the funding was offered by a private citizen, who set up a trust fund for the large amount. The tips Zellner mentioned in her tweet seem to be from the tip hotline associated with the $100,000 reward.

Who did Bob Zellner marry? ›

“Can you type?” SNCC executive secretary Jim Forman asked Dorothy “Dottie” Miller shortly after she walked into the SNCC office on Auburn Avenue in Atlanta, Georgia. (She later married SNCC's Bob Zellner, becoming Dottie Zellner.)

What shows was Kathleen Zellner in? ›

What shows was Kathleen Zellner in? ›

Is Kathleen Zellner representing Johnny Depp? ›

Depp selected Kathleen Zellner, an American lawyer who appeared in the Netflix series 'Making a Murderer', as a legal consultant because he watched her on the show and remembered her stating that she was "the last person someone would hire if they were guilty."

How is Kathleen Zellner funded? ›

Zellner told Newsweek the funding was offered by a private citizen, who set up a trust fund for the large amount. The tips Zellner mentioned in her tweet seem to be from the tip hotline associated with the $100,000 reward.

Who were Steven Avery's attorneys? ›

Steven Avery's attorney, Kathleen Zellner, says she'll file new motion Tuesday in 'Making a Murderer' case. Steven Avery's lawyer said she plans to file a motion Tuesday in the ongoing attempt to fight his murder conviction.

Is Brendan Dassey released? ›

The fight to free Brendan Dassey continues. Dassey and his uncle Steven Avery were convicted and sentenced in the 2005 murder of Teresa Halbach in Manitowoc County. Dassey is sentenced to life in prison, with the earliest possibility for parole in 2048.

How good is Kathleen Zellner? ›

Zellner and her team of trial lawyers have won groundbreaking judgments and verdicts — and tens of millions of dollars in damages — for clients from all walks of life. Ms. Zellner is the only attorney in the country to have won five multi-million dollar verdicts in less than a year.

Is Catherine Zellner married? ›

How many attorneys does Johnny Depp have? ›

Depp has a total of eight lawyers on his legal team. However, the ones who tend to take the lead are Benjamin Chew, Camille Vasquez, and Andrew Crawford. Apart from these, the other lawyers in his team include Stephanie Calnan, Rebecca MacDowell Lecaroz, Yarelyn Mena, Jessica Meyers, and Samuel Moniz.

Where is Johnny Depp's legal team from? ›

Amber Heard is being represented by Woods Rogers Attorneys at Law while Johnny Depp is being represented by a team from Brown Rudnick.

Who are Amber Heard attorneys? ›

Amber Heard has hired new legal counsel to appeal the verdict reached in Johnny Depp's defamation trial. A spokesperson for the actress announced she retained David L. Axelrod and Jay Ward Brown of law firm Ballard Spahr to lead her counsel.

How much compensation did Steven Avery get? ›

Avery was arrested, and while in jail he settled his civil suit for $400,000.

Did Steven Avery's nephew do it? ›

Steven Avery

Where is Steven Avery? ›

In June, Avery was moved to medium security at Fox Lake Correctional Institution upon Zellner's request. He had previously been housed at maximum security Waupun Correctional Institution. Avery's nephew, Brendan Dassey, was also convicted of killing Halbach.

Where is Tom Fassbender now? ›

Fassbender joined the Wisconsin Department of Criminal Investigation in 1985 and has since retired from Wisconsin law enforcement. He moved to Nevada, where he worked hotel security in Las Vegas.

Where is Jerry Buting now? ›

He's Still A Practicing Lawyer

His LinkedIn page shows that he's been with the same firm since 1993: Buting, Williams, & Stilling, S.C., where he works alongside his wife. There, he specializes in "complex criminal offenses" like homicide, white collar crime, wrongful convictions, and more.

Who is Jerry Buting? ›

Jerry Buting is a practicing attorney focused exclusively on the defense of serious criminal cases. If you need an attorney on a criminal case, please see his law firm website for further information.

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