‘Making a Murderer’: Federal Appeals Court Upholds Ruling That Dassey’s Confession Was Coerced

A three-judge panel affirms that Dassey should be released from prison

Brendan Dassey Will Remain in Prison

A federal appeals court has upheld the ruling that Brendan Dassey’s conviction, chronicled in Netflix’s “Making a Murderer,” was coerced and he should be released from prison, the Associated Press reported. 

According to local paper WBAY, the majority of the three-judge panel agreed with Judge William Duffin’s August ruling that Dassey’s confession of the murder of Teresa Halbach was involuntary and that investigators violated Dassey’s rights.

“In sum, the investigators promised Dassey freedom and alliance if he told the truth and all signs suggest that Dassey took that promise literally. The pattern of questions demonstrates that the message the investigators conveyed is that the ‘truth’ was what they wanted to hear,” reads the decision, according to WBAY.  “Dassey, however, had trouble maintaining a consistent story except when he was being led step-by-step through the facts, thus confirming that his confession emerged not from his own free will, but from the will of investigators.”

The verdict could set in motion the release of Dassey, who has been in prison for 10 years after he and his uncle Steven Avery were convicted in the 2005 murder of the Wisconsin photographer.

However, the state can still appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court or retry Dassey.

In August, Duffin sided with “Making a Murderer” filmmakers, ruling that investigators coerced Dassey, who was 16 at a time, into a confession, and that he suffered from “intellectual deficits.” He also overturned Dassey’s conviction, granting Dassey’s writ for petition of habeas corpus and finding that his imprisonment was unlawful.

A month later, Duffin ordered his supervised release, pending possible retrial. However, Attorney General Brad Schimel quickly chimed in, stating that the “U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit granted the State of Wisconsin’s motion to stay U.S. Magistrate Judge William Duffin’s order to release Mr. Brendan Dassey. Mr. Dassey will remain in prison pending the outcome of the appeal.”

Dassey, who is now 26, was convicted in 2007 of first-degree intentional homicide, second-degree sexual assault and mutilation of a corpse in Halbach’s murder. His lawyers filed this writ of habeas corpus in 2014.

“Making a Murderer” was released in December 2015.