While there are still many who feel like Steven Avery may be guilty of murdering Teresa Halbach, no one who watched the Netflix documentary series Making a Murderer came away thinking his nephew Brendan Dassey had anything to do with the crime. The confused 16-year-old ended up being sent to jail for more than 10 years due to a coerced confession and inexcusable behavior from his original public defender, Len Kachinsky. So what was Kachinsky’s response to the recent news that Brendan’s conviction had been thrown by a federal court?
“In the sense that [the confession] was an instance that I preserved for appeal, before I was off the case, I was in (a) sense gratified because the fact that that was the basis for magistrate judge Duffin’s decision, it shows that I did my job,” Kachinsky told WBAY-TV News.
That’s a pretty generous interpretation of the judge’s decision. Brendan’s appeal consisted of two arguments: that his confession was illegally obtained, and that Kachinsky “breached his duty of loyalty by working with the prosecution to secure Brendan’s conviction.”
While the judge ruled he could not overturn Dassey’s conviction based on Kachinsky’s behavior, his 91-page decision stated that “Kachinsky’s misconduct was indefensible.” Specifically, the judge determined his “conduct was inexcusable both tactically and ethically. It is one thing for an attorney to point out to a client how deep of a hole the client is in. But to assist the prosecution in digging that hole deeper is an affront to the principles of justice that underlie a defense attorney’s vital role in the adversarial system.”
Here are just a few of the complaints made against Kachinsky (and his assistant Michael O’Kelly) in the writ of habeas corpus from Dassey’s lawyers:
- Over e-mail, Kachinsky and O’Kelly agreed that O’Kelly would interrogate Brendan on May 12, 2006 – the same day on which Kachinsky expected to (and did) lose his motion to suppress Brendan’s March 1 confession – because the blow of loss would render Brendan more vulnerable.
- Kachinsky canceled a scheduled visit with Brendan to make Brendan feel more “alone” for the O’Kelly interrogation.
- Previously, O’Kelly had sent an email to Kachinsky stating that Brendan’s family was “truly where the devil resides in comfort. I can find no good in any member. These people are pure evil…A friend of mine suggested ‘This is a one branch family tree. Cut this tree down. We need to end the gene pool here.’ “
- The same day the judge denied the motion to suppress the March 1 confession, O’Kelly falsely told Brendan that he had failed a polygraph test.
- After O’Kelly got the written “confession” from Brendan on May 12, he called Kachinsky who immediately arranged for Brendan to undergo a second uncounseled police interrogation the next day.
- Most of the above actions by Kachinsky and O’Kelly were not discovered until Brendan’s post-conviction evidentiary hearing.
Fortunately, Dassey’s long nightmare is almost over. Barring an appeal of the federal ruling or retrial from the state of Wisconsin, he will walk away from jail a free man in the next 90 days. As for Len Kachinsky, there might be a very expensive lawsuit in his future.