|Employer||Kathleen T. Zellner & Associates|
Kathleen Zellner is an American attorney who has worked extensively in wrongful conviction advocacy. Notable clients Zellner has represented include Steven Avery, who was the subject of the 2015 Netflix series Making a Murderer.
Wrongful conviction advocacy
Since Zellner began her law firm in January 1991, she has obtained the exoneration of 18 wrongfully convicted men, handling many of these cases pro bono. Ms. Zellner has secured many important exonerations that have changed law both in Illinois and the United States. In one case, she obtained the release of death row inmate Joseph Burrows by persuading the real killer to confess to the murder. The Illinois Supreme Court affirmed the trial court decision releasing Burrows from death row. In 1994, Zellner represented serial killer Larry Eyler. Hoping to have his death sentence commuted, he confessed to 21 unsolved homicides. The offer was rejected and Eyler died on death row in 1994. Zellner gave the information to the authorities after Eyler died.
Fox was imprisoned for eight months for the murder of his daughter, Riley Fox. Zellner represented Fox until he was cleared by DNA evidence and won a $15.5 million verdict against the government (reduced to $8.1 million on appeal).
Ferguson was arrested in 2004 for the 2001 murder of Columbia Tribune sports editor Kent Heitholt. His case generated national media coverage, and Ferguson gained support from many members of the public. He was released in November 2013 after Zellner and her firm convinced the only two witnesses against Ferguson, Charles Erickson and Jerry Trump, to admit that they had lied at trial. A multi-million dollar civil rights lawsuit against the Columbia police officers who arrested and assisted in Ferguson's prosecution is currently pending in federal court.
- Pro Bono :: Kathleen Zellner
- "Perjured testimony by the actual killer put Joseph Burrows on death row". Bluhm Legal Clinic, Northwestern Law. Chicago.
- Conroy, John (July 30, 1992). "The Return of Larry Eyler". Chicago Reader.
- The Telegraph March 9, 1994
- "The Nightmare: A Look at the Riley Fox Case". Chicago Magazine. Chicago, IL.
- "Ryan Ferguson's attorney files civil rights lawsuit". CNN.