A federal judge on Friday overturned the conviction of Brendan Dassey, one of two men serving life sentences for the 2005 murder of 25-year-old Teresa Halbach.
Now, thanks to the new ruling, there could be renewed hope for supporters of Dassey’s uncle Steven Avery, who was also convicted in Halbach’s murder and is currently serving life in prison.
Avery and Dassey were the subjects of Netflix’s “Making a Murderer,” an explosive 10-part docuseries that focuses on Halbach’s murder.
After watching the documentary, many felt sympathetic towards Dassey — a learning-impaired 16-year-old who was convicted after an allegedly coerced confession — as well as Avery, who had previously served 18 years for a crime he did not commit before he was exonerated by DNA evidence in 2003.
Now that Dassey’s conviction has been overturned by
US Magistrate Judge William Duffin, many are now wondering what that means for Avery.
He argued that Dassey’s allegedly coerced confession affected Avery’s ability to get a fair trial because the prosecutor used it in an early press conference about the case:
“The state will probably argue that they never used Brendan’s confession in Steven’s case so it shouldn’t matter at all. But they did use Brendan’s so-called confession in the press conference in which [prosecutor Ken Kratz] polluted the jury pool state-wide by telling them that this was a true confession when they knew there was no evidence that would support it.
“All the physical evidence disproved it. There was no bloody murder, torture, rape, nothing that happened in that house. They already knew that, and yet they told the pubic otherwise. And they used the confession of Brendan Dassey to pollute the jury so that in Steven’s case, 129 of 130 jury questionnaires that came back — the people that we had to pick a jury from — all but one of them said Steven Avery was guilty before they had heard a shred of evidence in court. So it did have a direct effect on Steven Avery’s ability to get a fair trial.”
Because he no longer represents Avery, Buting could not say whether or not this will be used in Avery’s appeal. Avery’s appeals lawyer Kathryn Zellner applauded the Dassey ruling and said they expected that their client would also see his conviction overturned.
“We know when an unbiased court reviews all of the new evidence we have, Steven will have his conviction overturned as well,” Zellner told The Guardian. On Twitter, Zellner also added [sic]: “Brendan’s opinion shows cops made up crime story. Steven’s will show cops made up crime evidence.”
— Kathleen Zellner (@ZellnerLaw) August 12, 2016
State prosecutors have 90 days to refile the charges against Dassey, who will remain in prison until a decision is made. The state could appeal Judge Duffin’s opinion, retry Dassey, or else wash their hands of the situation.
Buting hopes they choose not to appeal.
“I’m hopeful at this point that the state will finally recognise [its error] and choose not to appeal and […] not to retry Brendan Dassey,” Buting said. “Nineteen million people watched ‘Making a Murderer,’ according to some estimates. Many, many more will be watching if they try to retry him and all it’s going to do is embarrass the state and the County of Manitowoc even more than they have already gone through.”
“I’m hopeful that at some point cooler heads with more objectivity will look at this case now and look at this judge’s decision,” Buting said. “And then hopefully they will step back and look at it and say, ‘Enough is enough, a young man’s been in prison for 10 years, let’s dismiss the case and free him.'”
The state has declined to comment.
“As we are currently reviewing Magistrate Judge Duffin’s order, we have no comment to offer at this time,” a spokesman with the Wisconsin Department of Justice Johnny Koremenos wrote in an email to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
“Making a Murderer” filmmakers Laura Ricciardi and Moira Demos are in the process of creating the follow-up to their groundbreaking docuseries, which took the country by storm at the end of 2015.
“Today was a major development for the subjects in our story and this recent news shows the criminal justice system at work,” Ricciardi and Demos said in a statement. “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.”
NOW WATCH: The defence attorneys from ‘Making a Murderer’ respond to criticism from Steven Avery’s new lawyer
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