The conviction of Brendan Dassey in the murder of Teresa Halbach was highlighted in the popular Netflix series Making a Murderer. Now Dassey’s lawyers have asked the Supreme Court to throw out the confession he made more than a decade ago, arguing it was illegally coerced.
Lawyers for Brendan Dassey, one of two subjects in the popular Netflix documentary Making a Murderer, filed a petition asking the Supreme Court to throw out his confession, saying it was coerced.
Dassey, along with his uncle Steven Avery, was convicted in 2007 for the rape and murder of Teresa Halbach in Manitowoc County, Wisconsin. For his part, the then-16-year-old Dassey was sentenced to life in prison.
Dassey’s interrogation was featured in the 2015 award-winning documentary. In 2005, Dassey confessed to investigators to he helping his uncle rape and kill Halbach and dispose of her body.
A Controversial Confession
There is some controversy about how authorities secured his confession. The 16-year-old was interrogated four times over a 48-hour period. Videotapes of the interview appear to show investigators providing Dassey with facts that he does not appear to know.
While his mother consented to the interview, Dassey did not have a lawyer present.
In 2016, a Wisconsin federal court overturned Dassey’s conviction, saying the confession was illegally coerced. Fast forward to December 2017, and the Court of Appeals reversed that decision by a 4.3 vote. The three dissenting judges said the decision was “a profound miscarriage of justice.”
Dassey’s lawyers are now arguing that the Supreme Court should weigh in.
Brendan Dassey’s Conviction: A Miscarriage of Justice?
According to Seth Waxman, a former Solicitor General of the United States and longtime Supreme Court practitioner said, Dassey is intellectually and socially challenged, facts that have been overlooked in previous rulings.
“Put simply, the interrogators took advantage of Dassey’s youth and mental limitations to convince him they were on his side, ignored his manifest inability to correctly answer many of their questions about the crimes, fed him facts so he could say what they wanted to hear, and promised that he would be set free if he did so,” Waxman said. “The resulting confession was more theirs than his.”
In a press release, Steven Drizin, one of Dassey’s lawyers, commented, “Too many courts around the country, for many years, have been misapplying or even ignoring the Supreme Court’s instructions that confessions from mentally impaired kids like Brendan Dassey must be examined with the greatest care — and that interrogation tactics which may not be coercive when applied to an adult can overwhelm children and the mentally impaired.”
Laura Nirider, one of Dassey’s lawyers, said they expect the Supreme Court to consider the decision sometime in late spring. The Supreme Court only accepts a small number of petitions for review.