In its first season, Netflix Original #documentary series Making A Murderer explored the alleged wrongful conviction of Steven Avery, and his nephew, Brendan Dassey, (who was 16 at the time) for the 2005 rape, murder, and mutilation of photographer Teressa Halbach. Both men received life sentences over a decade ago, but their case witnessed a newfound public interest since the show's release.
Now a vital piece of information regarding Dassey has surfaced which could give a new outlook on the entire case. But before we get into it, let me sketch a quick backstory for those unfamiliar with the case.
What Happened With Brendan Dassey's Interrogation?
In 2006, Brendan Dassey was interrogated by investigators Mark Wiegert and Tom Fassbender without the presence of an adult or a lawyer. After several sessions, Dassey eventually confessed to being an accomplice to Halbach's rape and murder, and he was convicted for first-degree homicide, rape and mutilation of a corpse.
However, audiences who saw the tapes in #MakingAMurderer weren't sure about the fairness and impartiality of the interrogation process, pointing out Dassey's intellectual disability, and the investigators employing the Reid technique (an interrogation technique in which suspects are isolated and directly accused of the crime in question) on him. Given those factors, people felt Dassey was wrongly pressured into his confession.
In 2016, Magistrate Judge William Duffin ruled that Brendan Dassey's confession had been coerced, and overturned his sentence. But in November the Justice Department appealed the magistrate's decision to the US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. Because of that, Dassey's release was stopped, pending another hearing.
The Case's New Development
On June 22 of this year, a three-judge panel from Chicago's Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals ruled 2-1 to uphold last year's ruling of overturning Dassey's sentence. On the decision, Magistrate William Duffin of Milwaukee stated that authorities present in the interrogation:
"Repeated false promises [that] 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."
The official decision to overturn the sentence states there was no DNA evidence linking Dassey to the murder:
"There was no physical evidence linking Dassey to the murder of Halbach — investigators did not find any of Dassey’s DNA or blood on any of the many objects that were mentioned in his confession — the knives in Avery’s house, gun, handcuffs, bed, RAV4, key, or automotive dolly."
The judges also said the state appellate court ignored the fact that Dassey was trying to please the investigators interrogating him throughout their time together:
"By doing this — by linking promises to the words that the investigators wanted to hear, or allowing Dassey to avoid confrontation by telling the investigators what they wanted to hear — the confession became a story crafted by the investigators instead of by Dassey."
This Doesn't Mean Brendan Dassey Is Fully Clear
His sentence being overturned doesn't mean he'll be released, however. The State has the option to either appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court or retry Dassey in the next 90 days. And from the looks of it, an appeal will be made. Director of Communications and Public Affairs for the Wisconsin Department of Justice, Johnny Koremenos stated
"We are evaluating the 2-1 decision from the court. We anticipate seeking review by the entire 7th Circuit or the United States Supreme Court and hope that today’s erroneous decision will be reversed. We continue to send our condolences to the Halbach family as they have to suffer through another attempt by Mr. Dassey to re-litigate his guilty verdict and sentence."
One of Dassey's attorneys, Steven Drizin, is hopeful about things working out for his client, however:
"The battle to secure Brendan’s freedom is not yet over, but today’s decision represents a giant leap forward for Brendan and for justice for Brendan and his family."
#MakingAMurdererSeason2 is expected to be released later this year. The show hasn't had new episodes since 2015, but as Netflix VP Cindy Holland noted, the investigation is ongoing, and new episodes will be coming out as new information gets released.
This new development will most likely play a big part in the second season, and it could also create a significant divide between viewers. Looking at what people have had to say, there are two main different takes to the story: Some argue the investigators forced Dassey to confess, while others say he was aware of too much information on his own to not have taken part in the crime. It will be interesting to see how #Netflix chooses to present the new information in the second season.
What side are you on? Do you think Dassey is guilty? Innocent? Or guilty of a lesser charge? Let me know in the comments!
[Source: Journal Sentinel]