Following a Federal Magistrate’s decision to overturn Brendan Dassey’s murder conviction, the Wisconsin Department of Justice has filed an appeal to keep him in jail. Dassey was one of the primary subjects of the Netflix documentary series ‘Making A Murderer,’ in which he confessed to helping his uncle Steven Avery rape, murder and dismember the body of 25-year-old Auto Trader Magazine photographer Teresa Halbach on the family’s auto salvage property. After a vocal public outcry regarding the methods used by the police to elicit a confession from Dassey, who is mentally impaired, Judge William Duffin overturned his conviction on August 12, 2016, giving prosecutors 90 days to file an appeal. After the 90 days Dassey was to be set free, having already spent 10 years in federal prison.
Prosecutors in the case believe Dassey should remain behind bars, disagreeing with his defense attorneys that his confession was coerced and his constitutional rights violated. Dassey, who was 16 at the time of his arrest, was tried and charged as an adult and received a sentence of life in prison. However, when first questioned by police, he maintained his innocence, claiming he knew nothing about the murder and had only spent time with his uncle on the day Ms. Halbach’s body was disposed of later in the afternoon after being invited by Avery to attend a bonfire on the property. Not satisfied with his recollection of events, investigators questioned him over a period of four intense days without a parent or lawyer present, making false promises that if he hold them the truth, he would be able to go home with his mom. In addition, they provided him with privileged information regarding unreleased facts about the case, effectively shaping the story he would later describe to authorities. His videotaped confessions show a frightened, confused Dassey being told what to say and asked to draw pictures depicting the body of Ms. Halbach chained to the bed police insisted he raped her on. None of Dassey’s DNA was found at the crime scene or on Halbach herself. His initial defense attorney Len Kachinsky, who was later removed from the case, was allegedly working with prosecutors to work out a plea deal in order to get Dassey to testify against his uncle, which he did not do.
Upon filing the appeal, Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel said, “We believe the magistrate judge’s decision that Brendan Dassey’s confession was coerced by investigators, and that no reasonable court could have concluded otherwise, is wrong on the facts and wrong on the law. Two state courts carefully examined the evidence and properly concluded that Brendan Dassey’s confession to sexually assaulting and murdering Teresa Halbach with his uncle, Steven Avery, was voluntary, and the investigators did not use constitutionally impermissible tactics.” Considering the support the now 26-year-old has garnered upon the release of ‘Making A Murderer,’ the state undoubtedly faces a tough road ahead. Should their appeal be denied, they will have to decide whether or not they will retry Dassey for the crimes they allege he committed.
Dassey is currently being represented by the Center on Wrongful Convictions of Youth at Northwestern University in Chicago, who released a statement following the news of the Department of Justice’s decision to appeal Duffin’s ruling that read, “We are disappointed in the State’s decision to prolong Brendan’s case by seeking an appeal. We look forward to continuing to defend his rights in court. Like Brendan, we remain grateful to his many supporters for their continued loyalty and strength.”
What happens next remains to be seen.