Katherine Zellner, the Illinois attorney who became famous through the documentary series “Making a Murderer,” is now facing legal troubles of her own after she allegedly abandoned a man’s civil rights case after she promised to “zealously fight for him.”
On December 27, 2018, Lathierial Boyd filed a legal malpractice lawsuit against Zellner based upon allegations that Zellner assured him she could win his civil rights case against the city of Chicago and several police officers. But instead she neglected it, lost on summary judgment, and then voluntarily dismissed his appeal, Boyd’s suit claims.
Boyd, who had been sentenced to 82 years in prison following a fatal nightclub shooting, retained Zellner in 2013 after local media, previous counsel and he himself “had already conducted significant investigation” into his case. According to Boyd, Zellner boasted about her “close relationship” with the state’s attorney’s office to convince him to fire his previous counsel and retain her.
Soon thereafter, Boyd’s conviction was vacated by Anita Alvarez (a Cook County State Attorney whose Conviction Integrity Unit conducted a routine review of Boyd’s case history beginning in 2011 after new evidence about the eyewitnesses was introduced by Boyd’s new attorney Kathleen Zellner that determined he should never have been prosecuted) and he was released from prison in September, 2013, which prompted the federal wrongful conviction suit Zellner filed on his behalf later that year. But Boyd claims “Ms. Zellner did not zealously litigate this lawsuit.” Rather, Boyd claims Zellner’s actions- which included failing to “marshal the relevant facts” in responding to the city and officers’ bid for summary judgment (which Boyd lost in December 2016), and Zellner failing to preserve Boyd’s appeal- destroyed his opportunity to pursue a wrongful conviction case potentially worth “upwards of tens of millions of dollars.” Boyd also claims Zellner voluntarily dismissed his case and lied about it being better to pursue in state court- where the statute of limitations had already run on his claims. “Ms. Zellner knew, or should have known if she was even minimally competent to practice law in this subject area, that her previous loss on all claims in federal court effectively foreclosed any and all relief in state court, and that Mr. Boyd’s only chance of recovery was to proceed with his appeal,” the suit says.
Boyd is represented by Leonard S. Becker of the Law Offices of Leonard S. Becker APC.
The case is Boyd v. Zellner et al., case number 2018-L-013886, in the Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois.
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