Conviction overturned for ‘Making a Murder’ teen Brendan Dassey

Brendan Dassey. (Department of Corrections)

MILWAUKEE, Wis. (WBAY) – A federal court in Milwaukee has overturned Brendan Dassey’s murder conviction.

U.S. Magistrate Judge William Duffin ordered Dassey be released from custody unless the state appeals or retries the case within 90 days of Friday’s ruling. Sources tell Action 2 News Dassey will not be released until the appeals process is finished. Dassey has been serving his sentence at a prison in Portage County.

Dassey was previously sentenced for the 2005 murder of freelance photographer Teresa Halbach in Manitowoc County. His uncle Steven Avery was also convicted in the murder. Avery is currently appealing his own case. The case garnered national attention following the release of the Netflix documentary “Making a Murderer.”

A judge was asked to weigh in on two issues surrounding Dassey’s case: his confession to the murder and whether he had ineffective lawyers. The court did not rule that he had ineffective lawyers but found issues with his confession. Court documents say investigators used leading questions when interrogating Dassey, which made it difficult for them to tell if he really knew the facts, or if he was agreeing with investigators. They believe investigators repeatedly claimed to already know what happened in Halbach’s death and that Dassey had nothing to worry about.

The decision states the repeated false promises, when considered with other factors like Dassey’s age, intellectual deficits and the absence of a supportive adult, led a judge to determine that Dassey’s confession was involuntary under the U.S. Constitution. Dassey was 16 when Halbach was killed. Court records show he also had an IQ of 74 and was taking special education classes in high school.

The Wisconsin Department of Justice says it is currently reviewing Judge Duffin’s ruling and will not comment at this time.

The Manitowoc County Sheriff’s Office says its sheriff’s administration is currently meeting, and they will issue a news release at a later time.

Avery’s former defense attorney, Jerome Buting, sent this tweet following the decision:

Avery’s new lawyer, Kathleen Zellner, was visiting Avery in Wisconsin today and had this to say about the decision:

“We are thrilled for Brendan Dassey that his conviction has been overturned.  We fully expected this outcome from an unbiased court that carefully examined his confession.  I was just visiting Steven Avery and he is so happy for Brendan.  We know when an unbiased court reviews all of the new evidence we have, Steven will have his conviction overturned as well.”

-Kathleen Zellner


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