Brendan Dassey, the Wisconsin inmate and subject of Netflix’s Making a Murderer, has been awarded a new trial on the basis that his confession to police had been coerced. Dassey was only 16 at the time of his confession, which led to his 2007 conviction for helping his uncle, Steven Avery, commit the rape and murder of 25-year-old photographer, Teresa Halbach. Dassey later recanted the confession. He was sentenced to life in prison and is now 27.
A Wisconsin federal judge overturned Dassey’s murder conviction last August, but that decision was later appealed. On Thursday, an appellate panel upheld the lower court’s ruling.
In a statement, Dassey’s lawyers said “In rejecting the State’s assertion that Brendan confessed voluntarily, the court acknowledged what many parents already recognize: Brendan’s youthfulness and intellectual disability make him particularly vulnerable in the interrogation room.” They called the ruling a “significant step closer to achieving justice.”
For now, Dassey remains in prison. The state has 90 days to decide if it’s going to retry Dassey, or else it will be forced to release him. If he is retried, his confession will be inadmissible. The Wisconsin attorney general’s office could still appeal the ruling to the full Seventh Circuit, or to the Supreme Court.
Netflix has committed to future episodes of Making a Murderer, with the show’s directors saying they “will continue to document the story as it unfolds and follow it wherever it may lead.”
Steven Avery, Dassey’s uncle, remains in prison, where he’s serving a life sentence.
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