WAUKESHA, Wis. (Court TV) — What was initially supposed to be a sentencing hearing turned into a dramatic hearing where both of Jessy Kurczewski‘s attorneys withdrew from her case.
Kurczewski faces a mandatory life sentence after she was found guilty of killing her friend, Lynn Hernan, with eye drops. She also faces an additional 10 years for felony theft convictions.
Days before Thursday’s scheduled sentencing, both of the attorneys who represented Kurczewski at trial filed motions to withdraw from the case, citing a letter that the prosecution said it had received and turned over to the court in the last week. The letter allegedly contained instructions to create a fraudulent recording appearing to be from Hernan. In a phone call from jail before the hearing, Kurczewski denied writing or having any involvement with the letter.
Judge Jennifer Dorow began the hearing by acknowledging that she was in receipt of the 37-page letter, which was handed over to the sheriff by a woman named “Jessica.” At the hearing, prosecutors explained that the letter was taken to the sheriff on Nov. 26 by Jessica, who is friends with Kurczewski. Prosecutors said that Jessica served some time in jail with Kurcewski and also attended at least one day of the trial to show her support.
Jessica told investigators that when she arrived home on Nov. 25, she found the letter waiting for her. While the envelope contained a stamp, it did not have any postmarks on it.
Contained in the letter was language that implied that Kurczewski’s attorneys were involved in hatching a plan to create a fake recording. Dorow read portions of the letter in court: “This was one of my attorneys’ ideas, and clearly they aren’t going to tell anyone … We are trying to make a stir, a big stir, just to show how wrong they are.
Prosecutor Randolph Sitzberger said in court that he doesn’t believe that Kurczewski’s attorneys, Donna Kuchler and Pablo Galaviz, were involved in any way. “I think it’s fair to say we don’t believe the allegation … that this was one of the attorney’s ideas. We think that’s another red herring or untruth.”
However, Sitzberger told the Court there was an ongoing investigation into who authored the letter as well as how it was delivered to Jessica. He said that the Postmaster confirmed that it did not go through the mail, and noted that while the envelope had a crease as if it had been folded in half, the letter inside was not creased in the same manner.
Dorow pressed Galaviz and Kuchler on their reasoning for withdrawing from the case, as prosecutors said that if Kurczewski denies writing the letter outright, there should be no problem defending her.
Galaviz said simply, “All I can tell you is that I looked at the filing by the state. I contacted the state bar ethics … they said to withdraw from the case.”
Kuchler admitted to the court that she recognized her own handwriting on portions of the letter, which was described as being written on the back of trial notes.
When finally allowed to speak, Kurczewski expressed her frustration with the situation and pointed to the prosecution as the problem, questioning why the public had access to the letter. She told Dorow that while she wanted her sentencing to be over and behind her, she needed access to new counsel.
“I don’t think this is right,” Kurczewski told the Court. “Everything should be stopped, because I need to look at my legal rights.”
Dorow granted the motions for withdrawal, which will prompt the Office of the Public Defender to appoint a new attorney for Kurczewski. A status hearing has been scheduled for Jan. 12, 2024.