A celebrity lawyer filed a countersuit against a man who a week earlier sued her, claiming she owes him $20 million for allegedly mishandling his civil rights lawsuit over his wrongful murder conviction.
Attorney Kathleen Zellner, of DuPage County, filed suit on Jan. 9 against Lathierial Boyd and his ex-girlfriend, Lisa DePiero, accusing them of “fraudulent inducement” and unjust enrichment stemming from her representation of him in the dropped civil rights case.
Zellner was joined in her lawsuit by the Law Offices of Paul DeLuca.
Boyd had filed a malpractice complaint Dec. 27 in Cook County Circuit Court against Zellner, saying the lawyer who made her name representing another man at the heart of the 2015 Netflix series “Making A Murderer” didn’t properly represent him in his civil rights lawsuit.
In her complaint, Zellner cited her firm’s extensive track record in exoneration litigation. Whereas Boyd — convicted of murder in 1990 — said Zellner approached him in 2013 while he was still incarcerated in 2013 and squeezed out his initial attorney, Zellner said it was Boyd who made initial contact before 1995.
Although Cook County vacated Boyd’s conviction in 2013, Zellner maintained lawyers from her firm met with him at Stateville Prison as early as March 1995, reviewed his case and declined to represent him. By the time Zellner took the case in 2013, which she said followed a third-party contact on Boyd’s behalf, “Boyd had filed several post-conviction matters that had been dismissed, as well as a federal habeas petition. Boyd had retained and dismissed numerous attorneys and remained incarcerated.”
Zellner further said Boyd didn’t mention Richard McLeese, of the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Conviction Integrity Unit, was representing him before she got involved. She said her firm worked closely with the CIU to get the state to dismiss the charges and then continued to press for a certificate of innocence, which was linked to $213,624 in state compensation. Zellner said she waived the 25 percent of that award to which she was entitled.
In addition to differing versions of litigation loans and other financial obligations, Zellner accused Boyd of lying by not admitting to her or the IU that he didn’t write a note introduced at his trial establishing a prior relationship with the murder victim. He admitted to writing the note during deposition for his civil suit, which Zellner said allowed the city and police department to argue Boyd threatened and killed the victim over a drug money dispute.
She cited other contradictions revealed during the deposition, and said both Boyd and DiPiero were arrested on criminal charges while Boyd’s civil case was pending. Zellner said Boyd didn’t pay Deluca’s firm for its criminal defense work and accused DiPiero of trying to extort $2.5 million from Boyd’s expected civil suit winnings in exchange for her performance as a star witness “as to the extreme damage that his wrongful incarceration caused,” according to a letter submitted as evidence.
As Boyd weakened his case, Zellner said, he allegedly also canceled meetings and refused to settle for less than $20 million, saying his “conduct terminated the negotiations” and led the case to the summary judgment stage. After he lost there, Zellner said Boyd continued to hamper federal mediation by refusing to lower his demand.
Zellner said her firm incurred costs of nearly $163,000 outside of an estimated $500,000 in unbilled hours and $85,000 it spent resolving one of Boyd’s loans. DeLuca said he is owed more than $10,000. Zellner pointed to four other times Boyd has sued lawyers, judges and police officers, all of which were dismissed.
Formal complaints include fraudulent inducement and unjust enrichment. In addition to a jury trial, Zellner and DeLuca want the court to issue judgment against Boyd and DiPiero of at least $50,000.
Boyd is represented in the matter by attorney Leonard S. Becker, of Chicago.