A Milwaukee federal judge, Judge William E. Duffin of the Eastern District of Wisconsin, just overturned the conviction of Making a Murderer’s Brendan Dassey, closing a chapter in a story that lasted 10 years.
Dassey was found guilty of murdering Teresa Halbach in 2007, a crime to which he confessed to authorities. According to CNN, the judge decided against the previous ruling because of how the police obtained Dassey’s confession.
“The investigators repeatedly claimed to already know what happened on October 31st and assured Dassey that he had nothing to worry about,” Judge Duffin wrote, finding in favor of the defense’s writ of habeas corpus, originally filed on October 20, 2014, according to Rolling Stone. “These repeated false promises, when considered in conjunction with all relevant factors, most especially Dassey’s age, intellectual deficits, and the absence of a supportive adult, rendered Dassey’s confession involuntary under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments.”
According to Erica Suter, an appellate and post-conviction relief attorney who spoke with Rolling Stone, overturning a conviction on a habeas corpus is incredibly rare.
“With a federal habeas, you’re not raising new claims — you’re just litigating things that you already raised that you’re saying were decided incorrectly. When a court sees that a jury found a person guilty, the inclination is to want to leave that conviction intact.”
Now that the case against Dassey has been overturned, prosecuting attorneys have 90 days to schedule another trial or Dassey will be free for good. But what does that mean for the other defendant in the case?
Dassey’s uncle, Steven Avery, is still behind bars for the same murder. Shortly after the judge’s decision, Dassey’s lawyers issued a statement, expressing how overwhelmed they are with the result.
“The court’s decision rests on a fundamental principle that is too often forgotten by courts and law enforcement officers: Interrogation tactics which may not be coercive when used on adults are coercive when used on juveniles, particularly young people like Brendan with disabilities,” Laura Nirider and Steven A Drizin shared.
The next goal for Dassey’s team is to get him released from prison. Unfortunately, a timetable for Dassey’s release has not been set.
As fans of Making a Murderer are well aware, police obtained Dassey’s confession under questionable circumstances. Not only did a judge describe Dassey’s IQ as being “in the low average to borderline range,” but police interrogated him without his mom in the room.
According to NPR, the police interviewed Dassey for hours before he finally told them that he helped Avery rape and kill Halbach.
Dassey later recanted his original statement.
Judge Duffin also called the confession “so clearly involuntary in a constitutional sense that the court of appeals’ decision to the contrary was an unreasonable application of clearly established federal law.”
Meanwhile, Netflix is currently working on Season 2 of Making a Murderer.
Although Making a Murderer fans were thrilled to find out about Dassey’s case, TMZ is reporting that producers were not prepared for what happened. In fact, not only where filmmakers not in production, but Dassey’s family members were out of town in Michigan.
Of course, producers had no way in knowing when a ruling would be handed down. The case has been under review for months now.
“This recent news shows the criminal justice system at work,” Making a Murderer directors Laura Ricciardi and Moira Demos said in a statement following the Dassey decision. “As we have done for the past 10 years, we will continue to document the story as it unfolds, and follow it wherever it may lead.”
While the cameras weren’t rolling to catch the original moment, producers are working hard to recreate everything.
At the same time, it isn’t clear what Dassey’s release could mean for Avery. Will a judge finally grant Avery a new trial now that Dassey’s conviction has been overturned?
Back in 2007, police found Halbach’s Toyota RAV4 in Avery’s lot. They also uncovered bone fragments and tissue next to his mobile home. Of course, this wasn’t the first time Avery found himself in trouble with the law.
In 1985, Avery was found guilty of raping Penny Beerntsen. He served 18 years behind bars but was exonerated in 2003 after DNA evidence proved his innocence.
While many fans believe police framed Avery for Halbach’s murder, TMZ is reporting that his ex-fiancée, Jodi Stachowski, hopes Avery remains in prison for the foreseeable future.
Stachowski believes that Avery is guilty of murdering Halbach and is afraid of what he might do if released from prison. She does, however, believe that Dassey was innocent and is grateful for his release.
Avery’s family, meanwhile, believes in his innocence and will not be satisfied until they see him exonerated and released.
The new season of Making a Murderer does not have an official release date, though the events surrounding Dassey might push the date up, especially if Avery’s case is overturned as well.
Tell us! Watch the highlights from Brendan Dassey’s confession below and let us know if you think it was a false confession.
Making a Murderer is currently streaming on Netflix.
[Image via Netflix]