Kathleen Zellner

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Kathleen Zellner
BornKathleen Thomas
Midland, Texas
OccupationAttorney
EmployerKathleen T. Zellner & Associates
Website
www.kathleentzellner.com
 
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Kathleen Zellner
BornKathleen Thomas
Midland, Texas
OccupationAttorney
EmployerKathleen T. Zellner & Associates
Website
www.kathleentzellner.com

Kathleen Zellner (née Thomas; born in Midland, Texas) is an American attorney who has worked extensively in wrongful conviction advocacy.

Wrongful conviction advocacy[edit]

Since Zellner began her law firm in January 1991, she has obtained the exoneration of 17 wrongfully convicted men, handling many of these cases pro bono.[1] Her most notable exoneration was Ryan Ferguson, who was released from prison in 2013 after serving ten years following the overturn of his murder conviction by the Western Appeals Court.[2][3][4]

In another 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.[5]

In 1994, Zellner represented death row inmate Larry Eyler. In exchange for commuting his death sentence to life in prison, he confessed to 21 unsolved homicides.[6]

Zellner also works extensively in civil cases.[7][8]

List of exonerations[edit]

Bullock spent over ten years in prison for the kidnapping and rape of a 9-year-old girl and a 12-year-old girl before DNA testing revealed that he was not the culprit.[9]

Burrows spent nearly five years on death row until Zellner persuaded the real killer to confess at the post-conviction hearing.[10]

Wardell and Reynolds spent over ten years in prison for robbery and sexual assault. They were exonerated in 1997, when Zellner convinced prosecutors to agree to DNA testing that cleared them as the perpetrators.[11]

Saunders, Bradford, and the two Ollins cousins were convicted of the kidnapping, rape, and murder of 23-year-old medical student Lori Roscetti. Bradford spent six years in prison as the result of a plea deal, but Saunders and the Ollins cousins spent nearly fifteen years in prison before DNA testing was conducted that cleared all four men of the crimes.[12]

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).[13]

Hill and Young were convicted of the 1990 rape and murder (by strangulation and setting the victim on fire) of Kathy Morgan. DNA testing performed in 2004 led to the release of both Hill and Young in 2005.[14]

Nash spent over seventeen years in prison for the murder of Leon Stroud. In 2010, Zellner convinced the Illinois Court of Appeals to order DNA testing of the ski mask worn by the perpetrator. This testing led to Nash's exoneration and the apprehension of the real killer, who was serving time for an unrelated drug crime. A federal civil rights lawsuit against the City of Chicago is currently pending.[15]

Munoz was convicted of the 1997 murder of his girlfriend, Magdaliz Rosario. Zellner's firm represented Munoz and won his acquittal - after the fourth trial (the first trial resulted in a hung jury, and the second two resulted in convictions but were reversed on appeal) - in June 2013.[16]

Boyd spent twenty-three years in prison for the murder of Michael Fleming and the attempted murder of Ricky Warner until his conviction was vacated in 2013 due to evidence of his innocence and prosecutors withholding exculpatory evidence. A $20 million civil rights lawsuit against the City of Chicago and various police officers is currently pending in federal court.[17]

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 $100 million civil rights lawsuit against Boone County, Missouri, the prosecutor, police officers, and others is currently pending in federal court.[18]

Edwards was convicted of two murders as the result of a false confession. He was exonerated for the murder of Fred Reckling after Zellner filed a motion for DNA testing that cleared Edwards as the murderer. His other murder conviction, which came from the same confession shown by DNA testing to be false, is currently being challenged.[19]

See also[edit]

Footnotes[edit]

  1. ^ Pro Bono :: Kathleen Zellner
  2. ^ In re: Ryan Ferguson v. Dave Dormire, 413 S.W.3d 40 (Mo. App. W.D. 2013). Missouri Court of Appeals :: Western District
  3. ^ Ryan Ferguson :: Kathleen Zellner
  4. ^ Ryan Ferguson Website :: Kathleen Zellner
  5. ^ Joseph Burrows :: Kathleen Zellner
  6. ^ Conroy, John (July 30, 1992). "The Return of Larry Eyler". Chicago Reader. 
  7. ^ Kevin Fox :: Kathleen Zellner
  8. ^ Fox v. Hayes, 600 F.3d 819 (7th Cir. 2010). 7th Circuit Court of Appeals
  9. ^ "Exoneration Case Detail: Ronnie Bullock". National Registry of Exonerations (University of Michigan Law School). 
  10. ^ "Perjured testimony by the actual killer put Joseph Burrows on death row". Bluhm Legal Clinic, Northwestern Law (Chicago). 
  11. ^ "Exoneration Case Detail: Billy Wardell". National Registry of Exonerations (University of Michigan Law School). 
  12. ^ "Exoneration Case Detail: Omar Saunders, Marcellius Bradford, Larry Ollins, and Calvin Ollins". National Registry of Exonerations (University of Michigan Law School). 
  13. ^ "The Nightmare: A Look at the Riley Fox Case". Chicago Magazine (Chicago, IL). 
  14. ^ "Exoneration Case Detail: Harold Hill and Dan Young". National Registry of Exonerations (University of Michigan Law School). 
  15. ^ "Exoneration Case Detail: Alprentiss Nash". National Registry of Exonerations (University of Michigan Law School). 
  16. ^ "Exoneration Case Detail: Cesar Munoz". National Registry of Exonerations (University of Michigan Law School). 
  17. ^ "Decades Lost to Chicago Frame Job, Man Says". Courthouse News Service. 
  18. ^ "Ryan Ferguson's attorney files $100 million lawsuit". CNN. 
  19. ^ "Lake County exoneration could ripple beyond Illinois". Chicago Tribune. 

External links[edit]