As Steven Avery's lawyer, Kathleen Zellner has a tricky case on her hands — but she's used to it. The Chicago lawyer features heavily in season 2 of Making A Murderer, out Friday on Netflix. However, if you're meeting Zellner for the first time as you binge-watch the new season from under your covers, you're only getting a small part of her legacy.
Zellner has always been a formidable lawyer. She's frequently represented those accused of murder, and freed a number of wrongfully convicted men, like the four convicted of kidnapping, raping, and murdering Chicago medical student Lori Roscetti in 1986; Kevin Fox, convicted for the murder of his 3-year-old daughter in 2004 in Wilmington, IL; and Mario Casciaro, convicted for the murder of a teenage coworker in Johnsburg, IL in 2002.
One of her biggest claims to fame includes a 1994 incident when the death of one of her clients allowed her to reveal that he had confessed to several murders, according to the Chicago Tribune. Death Row inmate Larry Eyler was convicted of a murder he insisted until his death (of complications from AIDS) he did not commit. However, he had privately confessed to Zellner his involvement in 21 other unsolved murders of men and boys. After he died, Zellner held a press conference and revealed the truth.
Zellner's active social media presence is another reason people pay so much attention to her. She's been very vocal about Avery leading up to the show's premiere, and the new season emphasizes how she ties social media into her work.
Her cases aren't always as grim as murder. In 1997, she defended a man who was accused of possessing 1,200 stolen Beanie Babies, known as the "Beanie Baby Bandit." He faced up to 10 years in prison, but was ultimately acquitted.
Whimsical toy animals stuffed with beans don't enter into her work for the Steven Avery case, taking over from now-famous lawyers Dean Strang and Jerry Buting, who appeared in season 1 of the heavily-debated docuseries and instrumental in the initial arguments for Avery's innocence in the murder of Teresa Halbach. That particular mess is still being untangled, and Zellner continues to stress Avery's innocence.
“I told Steven Avery the same thing I tell everyone. If you hire me and you’re guilty, trust me, I’ll do a way better job than the prosecutors," she says in the first episode of the new season. "I will find out if you are guilty, and we’re going to do testing. We can’t control the results. The results will be turned over to both sides, so really think about this. You would have to be an idiot to be hiring me to prove that you’re guilty."
Season 2 of Making A Murderer is on Netflix now.