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Making a Murderer defendant Brendan Dassey wins big in federal court USA News Today

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Making a Murderer defendant Brendan Dassey wins big in federal court USA News Today

USA Today Network
Andy Thompson and Alison Dirr, The (Appleton, Wis.) Post-Crescent

Published 4:13 p.m. ET June 22, 2017 | Updated 15 minutes ago

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Four months after the Teresa Halbach murder, Steven Avery’s 16-year-old nephew Brendan Dassey implicates himself in the brutal rape and murder. But was Dassey’s confession real or spoon fed by a pair of detectives?
Wochit

CHICAGO — A federal appeals court has affirmed a judge’s ruling that overturned the murder conviction of Brendan Dassey, who was featured in the Netflix series Making a Murderer.

In a 2-1 ruling issued Thursday afternoon, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit upheld the August 2016 decision by U.S. Magistrate William Duffin of Milwaukee.

Duffin found that Dassey’s constitutional rights were violated because investigators for the prosecution made false promises during multiple interrogations.

In overturning the conviction, Duffin ruled that investigators made “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.”

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Dassey was convicted in the 2005 murder of photographer Teresa Halbach. His uncle, Steven Avery, also is serving a life term in connection with the killing. Avery also is appealing his conviction.

The state appealed Duffin’s ruling, putting the case before the federal appeals panel.

Thursday’s ruling doesn’t necessarily mean Dassey will be freed from prison. The state can appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court or retry Dassey. 

“We are evaluating the 2-1 decision from the court,” said Johnny Koremenos, director of communications and public affairs for the Wisconsin Department of Justice. “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.”

Dassey’s attorneys said the ruling took their client one step closer to freedom.

“As of today, Brendan has been locked up for 4,132 days,” said one of his attorneys, Laura Nirider. “For the first time, this decision brings the end of that road in sight. We’re not there yet.”

Nirider stressed that the court’s ruling sent a strong message that the majority of the panel believed in Dassey’s innocence. “This is a confession that nobody can have any faith in.”

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Another of his attorneys, Steven Drizin, said Thursday’s ruling should send a loud message to state district courts and state appeals courts, which initially upheld Dassey’s 2007 murder conviction.

“In evaluating whether a confession is voluntary, courts must engage in the kind of searching and analysis that the federal courts performed, that the state courts did not.”

Dassey’s attorneys are evaluating their next steps to secure his release.

The case was the subject of the hit docu-series Making a Murderer, a Netflix production that was released in December 2015.

Dassey was 16 years old when he was questioned — and later charged — in connection with Halbach’s murder. 

Nirider said during oral arguments before the 7th Circuit in February that there was a “drumbeat of promises” from investigators before “every major admission” made by Dassey. 

“They fed him the answers they were looking for when he didn’t give them the information they wanted to hear,” Nirider told the three-judge panel.

The state countered that Dassey’s confession was not coerced because the investigators who questioned him never made him any explicit promises. 

Thursday’s majority opinion discussed a “pattern of suggestive questioning” throughout the March 1 interrogation of Dassey.

The ruling stated that prosecutors’ case against Dassey in the original trial rested almost entirely on Dassey’s interviews with police and one phone call with his mother — but no physical evidence. 

“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 decision states. 

The judges said the state appellate court ignored “many signs” that Dassey was trying to please investigators and a clear pattern of fact-finding and promises. 

“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,” the ruling states.

Contributing: John Ferak; follow Andy Thompsonon Twitter: @Thompson_AW; follow Alison Dirr on Twitter: @AlisonDirr

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Making a Murderer defendant Brendan Dassey wins big in federal court USA News Today

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