In a 17-page ruling released Monday, November 14, Milwaukee, Wisconsin Federal Judge William Duffin, who originally overturned ‘Making a Murderer’ subject Brendan Dassey’s conviction in August of this year, ordered the young man be released on his own recognizance, despite the continued protestations of the state’s Attorney General Brad Schimel. When Duffin initially overturned Dassey’s conviction, he gave prosecutors in the case 90 days to file an appeal, which they did in September. In response to the appeal, Dassey’s lawyers countered by petitioning the court to set him free, claiming he did not pose a risk to the general public and was highly unlikely to run away. Dassey, who has been diagnosed as having a below-average IQ, has continually maintained his innocence, as well as his desire to simply go home. Agreeing with his defense attorneys, Judge Duffin has granted his wish. Dassey, who was just 16 at the time of his arrest in 2005, has been behind bars for 11 years. He is now 27-years-old.
Upon learning of the ruling, Schimel stated he plans to file an emergency appeal to prevent Dassey’s release. My only question to Schimel is why?
Anyone who watched the wildly popular Netflix documentary series ‘Making a Murderer’ understands full well the unconstitutional and manipulative tactics police in the case used in order to elicit a confession from Dassey regarding the rape, murder and dismemberment of photographer Teresa Halbach in order to secure the conviction of Dassey’s uncle, Steven Avery.
Throughout the series, it was revealed Dassey’s original, court-appointed attorney, Len Kachinsky, was working with prosecutors to ensure Dassey testified against his uncle for the unspeakable crimes, though he never did. After Dassey requested (and was subsequently denied) a new attorney on the grounds he believed he was being purposefully misrepresented, Kachinsky was later removed from the case.
In addition to removing Brendan from school to question him about the events that took place on the day of the murder, police further subjected him to four straight days of aggressive questioning without the presence of a lawyer or parent, effectively shaping his original account of that day into what they wanted to hear by offering false promises of going home, classified information about the case, and threats of incarceration if he didn’t comply.
Throughout the days-long interrogations, Dassey’s story changed to fit the picture created by the police, effectively landing him in jail for murder. Though Dassey, who can be seen looking confused, scared, and successfully led into confessing to a crime he overwhelmingly most likely did not commit, later recanted his narrative by claiming he said what he did because he was told he could go home if he obeyed, he was found guilty.
There was no DNA evidence found at the crime scene (or on the victim) connecting him to the rape and murder, nor any evidence at all that would suggest he had anything to do with Ms. Halbach’s horrific death. Still and yet, he was sentenced to a long and tortured life in prison.
Dassey’s release comes with conditions, set forth by Duffin, which include not violating the law in any manner, continued supervision under the Wisconsin federal probation office, appearing in court and accepting any sentence ordered if required, complying with sex offender registration laws if necessary (due to his original conviction of rape), allowing home visits by federally-appointed officials, and abstaining from any contact with both his uncle and Ms. Halbach’s family.
In his August ruling, Duffin said of Dassey’s confession that it was “so clearly involuntary in a constitutional sense that the court of appeals’ decision to the contrary was an unreasonable application of clearly established federal law,” with Dassey’s new attorneys, Laura Nirider and Steven A. Drizin stating, “The court’s decision rests on a fundamental principle that is too often forgotten by courts and law enforcement officers: Interrogation tactics which may not be coercive when used on adults are coercive when used on juveniles, particularly young people like Brendan with disabilities.”
Dassey’s lawyers have no doubt he will abide by the rules laid out for him upon his release, which they want to happen as soon as possible, as the young man has already spent over a decade in prison. His uncle, 54, remains behind bars, though a follow-up season of the Netflix mega-hit is soon-to-be-released.
Hopefully, Mr. Dassey will, in fact, be released in the coming days and regain the normalcy of the life he once enjoyed, including rooting for his favorite WWE stars and playing video games in the comfort and safety of his home, sans any cold steel bars. It will obviously be a huge adjustment for him, but one I personally believe he will be able to adapt to just fine.