"Making a Murderer" defendant takes another big step towards freedom

A federal appeals court ruled 2-1 that Brendan Dassey's confession had been rendered in a way that was involuntary

By Matthew Rozsa

Staff Writer

Published June 23, 2017 3:37PM (EDT)

Brendan Dassey   (AP/Dan Powers)
Brendan Dassey (AP/Dan Powers)

Brendan Dassey, whose murder case became famous thanks to the Netflix series "Making a Murderer," has had the overturning of his conviction affirmed by a federal appeals court.

In a 2-to-1 ruling, the court upheld a lower court's ruling from August by U.S. Magistrate William Duffin of Milwaukee, according to a report by USA Today. In that ruling, Duffin found that investigators had repeatedly offered false promises to Dassey 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."

As a result, Duffin ruled that Dassey's constitutional rights had been violated and thereby overturned the conviction.

Despite the progress in Dassey's case, he is not set to be released any time soon. The director of communications and public affairs for the Wisconsin Department of Justice said that "we are evaluating the 2-1 decision from the court. 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."

By contrast, Laura Nirider (one of Dassey's attorneys) says that "for the first time, this decision brings the end of that road in sight. We’re not there yet."

She added, "This is a confession that nobody can have any faith in."

Another Dassey attorney, Steven Drizin, found that "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."

By Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a staff writer at Salon. He received a Master's Degree in History from Rutgers-Newark in 2012 and was awarded a science journalism fellowship from the Metcalf Institute in 2022.

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