Michael Iaria | Dhyana Fernandez | Lisa Kopecky

Michael Iaria

Most of my clients are referred to me by other lawyers who know my work. If, however, you have gone online to conduct your preliminary search for a lawyer, this brief professional history and the more detailed history found in my curriculum vitae (or resume) will give you some sense of my education, training, and experience. Still, before deciding whether to retain me or any lawyer, you would be well advised to talk, if you can, with other lawyers about the work ethic and reputation of the lawyer under consideration. Also of great importance is whether you feel you can work with a particular lawyer, which you can assess only by meeting and talking with the lawyer.

For almost thirty years, Michael Iaria has defended clients – including lawyers, prosecutors, physicians, politicians, professional athletes, corporate executives, business entities, and everyday people – accused by the government of serious crimes. He has substantial trial, appellate and post-conviction experience, and his current practice emphasizes the defense of white collar, health care fraud, death penalty, homicide, and other serious felony and misdemeanor cases in state and federal courts. Additionally, he represents professionals in disciplinary matters and victims of sexual abuse, police misconduct, and other traumatic events as plaintiffs in civil cases.  He also coordinates and conducts mitigation investigations and presentations for clients who, in any type of case, but particularly in the sentencing or disposition phase of criminal or professional licensing cases, need critical decision makers – prosecutors, judges, jurors, licensing board members – to understand their lives as a whole.   He has appeared in courts throughout Washington, and has handled or been involved in matters in Alaska, Oregon, New Jersey, California, Utah, Texas, and Idaho.  He is licensed in Washington and New Jersey.

An accomplished and successful trial and appellate advocate, he has received the Washington Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers President’s Award for “distinguished service in the highest traditions of the criminal defense bar”.  The announcement for the award noted that Mr. Iaria, “known for his fearlessness in the courtroom, is a dedicated, talented and accomplished criminal defense attorney,” a “drum major for justice,” and that his “death penalty work is well- known and highly-regarded, as is his white-collar defense work.” A colleague noted that when “Michael speaks, he has a sense of authority that makes you want to believe what he says.”

In the announcement, another colleague pointed out that many of his death penalty cases “were resolved through extensive pretrial prep and behind-the-scenes negotiations – things that often don’t get much publicity or appreciation.”  Another called him an “artist” in the courtroom, and yet another noted that simply watching Mr. Iaria perform a witness examination “challenges you to raise your quality of practice.”

Some of his other awards are:

  • Selected as one of the 100 best trial lawyers in Washington by the National Trial Lawyers Association
  • Ranked “at the highest level of professional excellence” in Martindale-Hubbell’s confidential peer survey
  • Voted by peers to the “Super Lawyers list” each year since Washington Law & Politics magazine began the award in 1999
  • Recognized as one of the best lawyers in Seattle by Seattle Business Monthly
  • “Superb” 10.0 rating on avvo.com

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Dhyana Fernandez

Dhyana Fernandez is the firm’s mitigation specialist. Her work helps the critical decision makers in a case—prosecutors, judges, jurors, licensing board members, and others—understand our clients’ lives as a whole, so that the clients are not defined solely by the conduct that put them under official scrutiny. As noted by the American Bar Association,

[t]he mitigation specialist compiles a comprehensive and well-documented psycho-social history of the client based on an exhaustive investigation; analyzes the significance of the information in terms of impact on development, including effect on personality and behavior; finds mitigating themes in the client’s life history; identifies the need for expert assistance; assists in locating appropriate experts; provides social history information to experts to enable them to conduct competent and reliable evaluations; and works with the defense team and experts to develop a comprehensive and cohesive case in mitigation.

Although mitigation specialists are best known for their work on capital cases, Ms. Fernandez brings her expertise to both capital and non-capital cases.

Ms. Fernandez began her career conducting mitigation investigations in 1990 for the Cook County (Chicago), Illinois Public Defender. Next, from 1992 to 1995, she worked at the Texas Appellate and Education Resource Center, where she did post-conviction mitigation investigations on Texas capital cases. In that capacity, she developed social histories, life chronologies, and life history narratives for the Center’s clients. Her work included gathering and analyzing records, and conducting multiple and extensive interviews with the clients and their immediate and extended family members, friends, community members, teachers, neighbors, correctional officers, and clergy, frequently under the pressure of pending execution dates.

From 1995 to 2006, Ms. Fernandez was a private investigator in Cook County, initially working on guilt phase issues in criminal cases. She located and interviewed witnesses and generated related memoranda, testified in court, conducted process service, record collection, photography,
and development of graphics for trial use. Starting in 2001, she resumed work as a mitigation specialist working on capital cases primarily in the Chicago area. She began to develop an expertise in cases involving foreign nationals and the special obstacles that are presented in these cases.

Ms. Fernandez has been appointed as a mitigation specialist in forty-two state and federal capital cases. In sixteen of these cases, her clients were foreign nationals—from Mexico, Colombia, Honduras, Ecuador, and El Salvador—and she conducted mitigation investigations in each of those countries. She has also been the mitigation specialist in several capital cases where the client suffered from mental retardation, and therefore focused on adaptive deficit behavior investigations and interviews with retrospective reporters.

Ms. Fernandez received her B.A. from Loyola University of Chicago in 1989 and her M.A. from the University of Texas in 1995. She is English-Spanish bilingual.

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Lisa Kopecky

Lisa Kopecky is the firm’s paralegal and investigator. She is a graduate of the University of Iowa and received a masters degree from the University of Washington. From 1991 to 1999, she was a private investigator at C.D. Beck & Associates, where she worked on both criminal and civil cases. Ms. Kopecky, a charter member of the Washington Association of Legal Investigators, started her own investigation firm in 1999, working mostly on criminal cases. Additionally, she has experience conducting death penalty mitigation investigations. In 2002 she started Kopecky Legal Services and shifted her focus to providing contract paralegal and other support services to lawyers, including the general counsel of Airbiquity, a Seattle software company. She is now employed at the Law Office of Michael Iaria PLLC.

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