Saturday 18 January 2020

Making A Murderer inmate Brendan Dassey coerced into confession, appeal judges rule

The 27-year-old now faces freedom or a re-trial depending on whether prosecutors push for another legal battle.

By Kerri-Ann Roper

Lawyers will fight for the release of Brendan Dassey, a prisoner featured in the Making A Murderer series, after judges backed a ruling that he was coerced into confessing.

But the 27-year-old, one of two men serving life sentences featured in the Netflix series, could face a re-trial after a panel of three judges on Thursday ruled against the US prosecutors’ appeal.


Dassey was 16 and mentally impaired when he told police under interrogation that he helped his uncle Steven Avery rape and kill photographer Teresa Halbach.

The 25-year-old woman’s charred remains were found at the Avery family’s scrapyard in Manitowoc County, Wisconsin, in 2005.

Dassey’s lawyers, Professors Steven Drizin and Laura Nirider of the Centre on Wrongful Convictions of Youth, celebrated the judges’ majority decision.

“We are overjoyed for Brendan and his family, and we look forward to working to secure his release from prison as soon as possible,” they said in a joint statement.

“As of today’s date, Brendan Dassey has lost 4,132 days of his life to prison.”

The 7th US Circuit Court of Appeals, agreeing with a judge’s decision in August, said that “no reasonable court” could find his confession was voluntary.


Investigators subjected him to “death by a thousand cuts” by using coercive techniques such as fact-feeding, false promises, manipulation and leading him through the interview, the judges said.

The panel was split, with judges Ilana Rovner and Ann Williams supporting the ruling and David Hamilton disagreeing.

Judge Hamilton said the decision “breaks new ground and poses troubling questions for police and prosecutors”.

Dassey and Avery’s cases found international attention after they were featured in the documentary series in 2015.

PA Media

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