UPDATED with statement from ‘Making A Murderer’ filmmakers: A federal judge in Milwaukee has overturned the conviction of Brendan Dassey, one of two men whose murder convictions were chronicled in the hit Netflix docuseries Making a Murderer. U.S. Magistrate Judge William Duffin ordered that Dassey be “released from custody unless, within 90 days of the date of this decision, the State initiates proceedings to retry him.”
Dassey was convicted in connection with the 2005 death of 25-year-old Teresa Halbach. Dassey’s uncle Steven Avery was found guilty of her murder. The 10-episode Making a Murderer chronicled — and questioned — the murder convictions of Avery and his nephew. After its premiere on December 18, the series garnered huge attention from the public and press.
Making a Murderer directors/executive producers Laura Ricciardi and Moira Demos issued the statement below following the ruling:
“Today there was a major development for the subjects in our story and this recent news shows the criminal justice system at work. As we have done for the past 10 years, we will continue to document the story as it unfolds, and follow it wherever it may lead.”
In today’s 91-page ruling (read it here), the court found Dassey’s confession was involuntary under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments, according to court documents. Dassey was 17 in 2007 when he was sentenced to 41 years in prison for first-degree intentional homicide, second-degree sexual assault and mutilation of a corpse.But the court ruled today that Dassey’s confession was “involuntary,” and said Dassey’s attorney Len Kachinsky’s “misconduct” was “indefensible.” Duffin also wrote that Dassey’s learning disabilities made him vulnerable to coercion. Avery, who was convicted in a separate trial, is serving a life sentence and had appealed his conviction.
Duffin wrote that “Kachinsky’s misconduct was indefensible,” and that “investigators repeatedly claimed to already know what happened on [the day of the murder] and assured Dassey that he had nothing to worry about. These repeated false promises, 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 under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments.”