In unexpected news on Friday, the conviction of Brendan Dassey, one of the main subjects of the Netflix 10-episode docuseries “Making a Murder,” has been overturned by a federal judge in Milwaukee, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel was first to report.
This is huge news for not only Netflix fans of the series, but also for anyone interested in false or coerced confessions in the US criminal justice system. Dassey — who was 17 years old when he was convicted of intentional homicide in 2005 for the murder of 25-year-old Teresa Halbach — could now go free in 90 days if state prosecutors don’t refile.
And while many people are heralding the 91-page ruling of US Magistrate Judge William Duffin (which you can read in full here) as justice for the now 26-year-old Dassey, there are others who wonder why it took so long.
Previously, The Wisconsin Court of Appeals rejected Brendan’s request for a new trial in January 2013, concluding that Dassey was not coerced by the police for his confession. The Wisconsin Supreme Court also denied Dassey’s request to review the case. Judge Duffin was one of Dassey’s last chances at freedom before his possible parole hearing on October 31, 2048.
Now, one of the lawyers from “Making a Murderer,” Jerry Buting, has given an interview with
TODAY’S TMJ4 in which he explains his reasoning for why Dassey’s case is just now being overturned.
“Frankly this could have been resolved years ago if the state courts had been more fair and unbiased,” Buting told the interviewer. “But as we all know, state courts are elected positions and try as judges might to be fair, it’s very hard — they’re humans — it’s very hard not to be concerned about the negative effect if you make an unpopular decision and apply the law the way it should be applied. Especially nowadays when there’s so much money being pumped into elections for Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court.”
Buting goes on to argue that judges could have been concerned that they would be voted out of their position if they made an unpopular decision, such as freeing Dassey.
“If you’re a judge and you issue the wrong decision that’s going to be unpopular you’re going to have somebody running against you [with] a bunch of money, a lot of it dark money,” he argued. “Whereas federal courts have the opportunity [to be unbiased] because they’re appointed — they’re like the last bastion for all of our rights. They’re the ones who can apply the laws the way they’re supposed to be applied and that goes all the way back to the Civil Rights era.”
You can watch Buting talking about the case and it’s decision below.
For those who haven’t watched the 10-episode docuseries, one of the most shocking moments is Dassey’s confession. Len Kachinsky, the newly appointed public defender for 16-year-old Dassey, sends his private investigator Michael O’Kelly to give Dassey a polygraph test as well as to get a written confession for the murder of Halbach.
During this meeting, O’Kelly gives Dassey a form to fill out about his involvement in the crime. When Dassey writes a “confession” proclaiming his innocence, O’Kelly then makes him rewrite his version of events and even goes so far as to make the learning-impaired teenager draw diagrams of the rape and murder, which are later used against him in his trial.
Additionally, Dassey, who at the time had no police record and was 16 years old — was repeatedly questioned by police without an attorney. In his ruling, Judge Duffin was extremely critical of the police’s techniques: “
The investigators’ use of leading questions and disclosure of non-public facts makes it difficult to evaluate whether Dassey really knew the facts or was simply agreeing with the investigators,” Duffin said in his decision.
Dassey’s current attorney, Laura Nirider — an expert on false confessions by juveniles
told an audience at the University of St. Thomas School of Law back in February that she believed Dassey’s confession of the rape and murder of Teresa Halbach to be false, according to Fox 9 News.
She also pointed out several aspects of the Calumet County, Wisconsin, police interviews that would contribute to a false confession. But her most striking point was that the officers’ tactics should have never been used on her client. You can see her presentation here.
“Making a Murderer” filmmakers Laura Ricciardi and Moira Demos are in the process of creating the followup to their groundbreaking docuseries, which took the country by storm at the end of 2015, and will continue to follow the controversy surrounding Halbach’s other convicted killer Steven Avery as well as Dassey.
NOW WATCH: The defence attorneys from ‘Making a Murderer’ respond to criticism from Steven Avery’s new lawyer
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