When 'Making a Murderer' was released last December, Wisconsin attorney Len Kachinsky soon became one of America's least favorite lawyers. The wildly popular Netflix documentary told the story of the prosecution of Steven Avery and Brendan Dassey for the murder of Teresa Halbach. The treatment that Brendan Dassey, then a learning disabled 16-year-old, made for some of the documentary's most troubling scenes -- including scenes of Dassey's lawyer, Len Kachinsky, pressuring Dassey to confess and leaving him to be questioned alone.
Now, ten years after he was imprisoned, and just a few months after "Making a Murderer" brought renewed national attention to his case, Brendan Dassey's conviction has been overturned. In a 91-page opinion, a federal judge in Wisconsin threw out Dassey's conviction, going so far as to describe Kachinsky's misconduct as "indefensible." But Kachinsky has a defense. Indeed, he takes some credit for getting Brandon Dassey's conviction overthrown in the first place.
A Confession Forced, in Part, by His Lawyer
It's not a stretch to say that Brendan Dassey was railroaded into confessing to Teresa Halbach's murder. "Making a Murderer" depicts Kachinsky pressuring Dassey to confess, then leaving him alone to be grilled by investigators -- in one case, facing interrogation three times in a single day, without a lawyer or anyone else to represent his interests or explain the consequences of his confession. This followed Kachinsky kicking off his defense of Dassey by publicly declaring that his client was "morally and legally responsible" for the murder.
Such actions lead U.S. Magistrate Judge William Duffin to repeatedly condemn Kachinsky's conduct representing Dassey -- though he found that such misconduct was not grounds for overturning the conviction. (The conviction, instead, was undone by repeated "false promises" given by investigators which rendered Dassey's confession involuntary.) Judge Duffin writes:
Although it probably does not need to be stated, it will be: Kachinsky's 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.
Actually, I'm The Reason He Got Off
Kachinsky, however, takes a different view of his work. In a statement to Bustle, the attorney says that his lawyering is the reason Dassey could be going free:
Magistrate Judge Duffin reversed Dassey's conviction on the suppression issue I litigated before leaving the case. I preserved that issue for appeal so that his future attorneys might raise it like they did. Even though Dassey and I parted ways on how he should proceed, I did my job and enabled Dassey's future attorneys to do theirs. The next step will probably be up to the 7th Circuit as the State will likely appeal.
The state has 90 days to decide whether it will retry Dassey or allow him to go free.