If you haven't been watching 'Making a Murderer,' start catching up now. Netflix's hit documentary tells the tale of Steven Avery, a Wisconsin man who spent 18 years behind bars for a sexual assault he didn't commit, only to be (possibly) framed for murder by the local sheriff's department after his release.
But if the Manitowoc County Sheriff's Department comes out looking (possibly) criminal, it's hard to watch 'Making a Murderer' and not wonder whether at least some of the lawyers have faced discipline for their inept or potentially corrupt handling of the case. Len, what in the world were you doing?
Prosecutor Disciplined, But Not for Avery Case -- Spoilers Ahead
Some context before we begin: after DNA evidence unearthed by the Wisconsin Innocence Project exonerates Steven Avery, he's released from prison. He sues the Manitowoc County Sheriff's Department for putting him away for 18 years. In the middle of depositions in that case, depositions which went terribly for the sheriff's department, Avery is charged with murder. It's very possible that Avery is being framed. District Attorney Ken Kratz is brought in from the neighboring county to lead the prosecution.
Plenty of people have taken issue with Kratz's handling of the case. Early on, he holds a press conference where he describes the crime in lurid detail. Critics call it a blatant attempt to spoil the jury pool. The hacktivist group Anonymous also claimed to have discovered evidence withheld by Kratz, though the group never followed through on threats to release it.
Kratz has since faced discipline, but not for the Avery case. (His Yelp reviews, however, haven't fared too well.) In 2010 his law license was suspended for four months and he was fined over $23,000. The disciplinary actions came after Kratz sent sexual texts to a victim of domestic abuse, while still working as the Calumet County D.A. and handling domestic abuse prosecution. Kratz moved in to private practice afterwards, but his new-found 'Making a Murder' infamy is bringing some renewed attention to the 2010 discipline.
Len Kachinsky: Still in Good Standing, Still Defending Children
Some of the most enraging lawyering in 'Making a Murderer' comes from Len Kachinsky. Kachinsky was the court-appointed defense attorney charged with representing Avery's mentally challenged nephew, Brendan Dassey. Kachinsky appears in episode four of the documentary, an episode which FindLaw Senior Writer for Consumer Blogs Christopher Coble described as "making me want to set my laptop on fire."
The feeling is understandable. Kachinsky doesn't come off as the most impassioned, or competent, defender of his client's interests. He begins his representation, for example, by publically declaring that his client is "morally and legally responsible" and describing Avery as "evil incarnate." It doesn't get much better from there.
Kachinsky is still an attorney in good standing in Wisconsin, where he continues to work in juvenile defense -- though his name has recently been removed from his firm's masthead. There doesn't appear to be any complaints filed against him for his representation of Massey.
There have been other accusations of impropriety, however. Lynn Reimer complained to the state bar after Kachinsky allegedly railroaded her son into taking a no contest plea for homicide and child abuse. After she complained, she received immediate police attention. Reimer believes that "cops wanted to close out the case and nail someone, and Kachinsky facilitated that," TMZ reports. She's currently seeking a restraining order against Kachinsky, with a hearing set for January 27th.
- Netflix's 'Making a Murderer' Omitted Crucial Facts, Prosecutor Says (The New York Times)
- Chief Justice Roberts Wants Less Courtroom Gamesmanship (FindLaw's Greedy Associates)
- Get Ready for Your Close Up, Counselor. TV Is in Your Future (FindLaw's Greedy Associates)
- Should Lawyers Tone Down Their Bling? (FindLaw's Greedy Associates)