Brendan Dassey of Making a Murderer has had his murder conviction overturned by a federal judge in Milwaukee, according to NBC. Dassey and his uncle, Steven Avery, were convicted of the murder of Teresa Halbach. Both Brendan and Steven were featured as the subjects of the Netflix Original Docuseries Making a Murderer.
Making a Murderer follows the legal struggles of Steven Avery, who spent nearly two decades in jail for a rape he did not commit. Shortly after his release, Avery and his nephew, Brendan Dassey, were arrested and convicted for the murder of Teresa Halbach in 2007, despite what appeared to be circumstantial evidence and a vendetta by the Manitowoc County Prosecutor’s Office.
While many felt Steven Avery was railroaded, several viewers of Making a Murderer felt even more sympathy for the much younger Dassey. Brendan was only 17 at the time of his conviction and there was much concern as to whether or not the interviews and alleged confession of Dassey were obtained legally. According to psychologists, Brendan Dassey had a borderline IQ and was enrolled in several special education classes, meaning he may not have understood what was happening. At one point during the interview with police on an episode of Making a Murder, Brendan can be heard asking if being arrested meant that he would miss WrestleMania.
According to TMZ, Dassey’s overturned conviction also comes with an order of release from the judge. The judge contends that Brendan’s interview by detectives at the age of 16 without an adult present, along with Dassey’s belief that the police were attempting to help him and Brendan’s low IQ were a recipe for disaster.
“Dassey’s borderline to below average intellectual ability likely made him more susceptible to coercive pressures than a peer of higher intellect,” the judge stated, suggesting that detectives utilized their position of power to intimidate Brendan into confessing to a crime he may not have committed.
Other items taken into consideration by the judge in his decision to free Brendan Dassey were mistakes made by Brendan’s first defense attorney, Len Kachinsky, who allowed an investigator to grill Dassey without representation for hours without an attorney present.
As to whether or not Brendan Dassey will actually step out of prison, that remains to be seen. Prosecutors have 90 days to decide if they will re-try Dassey, who has been behind bars since 2007. The murder of Teresa Halbach occurred in 2005.
The revelation that Dassey could go free may also be a feather in the cap of Steven Avery. Avery has consistently denied any involvement in Halbach’s murder and stated he was once again falsely convicted. Both Brendan and Steven were set to be subjects of the sequel to Making a Murder, which Netflix has yet to announce an air date for.
The success of Netflix’s Making a Murderer came as a surprise to many. The audience found itself absorbed in the lives of Steven and Brendan. While Avery had a long criminal past for petty offenses, Dassey presented as a young and naive patsy most of the time. Viewers were prompted to become amateur sleuths as they attempted to free Brendan and Steven while solving the disappearance and murder of Teresa Halbach. Critics of Making a Murderer state that integral evidence was left out of the docuseries to help viewers sympathize more with Avery and Dassey.
The emotional investment of the Netflix generation meant news of Dassey’s overturned conviction hit social media with a frenzy with many cheering Brendan’s victory.
Making a Murderer’s Brendan Dassey finally heading towards justice. A judge has seen what we all can… https://t.co/alEGLHb17x
— Tim McKinnel (@timmckinnel) August 12, 2016
BRENDAN DASSEY IS FREEE!!!!
— Haney (@HANEazYduzit) August 12, 2016
Just found out a federal judge has overturned Brendan Dassey’s conviction????????????????????????????????????????
— Sian Jones (@SN51ANY) August 12, 2016
Undoubtedly, Making a Murder producers, Netflix, and the world will keep their eyes on Wisconsin for the next 90 days to see if Brendan Dassey steps back out into the world, or is once again subjected to trial.
[Photo by Dan Powers/AP]