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Reports: Conviction overturned for ‘Making a Murderer’ prisoner

Brendan Dassey is led into the Manitowoc County Courthouse Tuesday, April 24, 2007, in Manitowoc, Wis. He was on trial for the Oct. 31, 2005, killing of Teresa Halbach. His uncle, Steven Avery was convicted of the same crime in March.
Brendan Dassey is led into the Manitowoc County Courthouse Tuesday, April 24, 2007, in Manitowoc, Wis. He was on trial for the Oct. 31, 2005, killing of Teresa Halbach. His uncle, Steven Avery was convicted of the same crime in March. ASSOCIATED PRESS

A federal judge has ordered that Brendan Dassey, the teenager at the center of Netflix’s “Making a Murderer” series, be released from prison.

Judge William E. Duffin overturned Dassey’s conviction on Friday afternoon, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Dassey’s case is one of two followed in the popular Netflix series, which also depicts the story of Dassey’s uncle, Steven Avery. Dassey and Avery were sentenced to life in prison for the 2005 murder of 25-year-old photographer of Teresa Halbach.

Reporter John Diedrich tweeted the details:

Diedrich is referencing Len Kachinsky, who was Dassey’s first attorney for the murder case. Steven Drizin, one of Dassey’s current lawyers, has accused Kachinsky of working with the prosecution to try to get Dassey to plead guilty and secure a conviction for Avery.

The Netflix documentary show was critical of the court system and law enforcement for convicting both Dassey and Avery. Dassey’s interview with detectives was a particular sticking point, as Dassey was 16 at the time and his attorneys said the confession was coerced. Dassey’s parents said the interview that prompted his confession was held without their consent.

Dassey also reportedly has an IQ of between 69 and 73, and an IQ of 70 or lower generally points to an intellectual disability.

Judge Duffin wrote in his decision that the investigators made false promises to Dassey, according to the Journal Sentinel.

“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,” Duffin wrote. “The Wisconsin Court of Appeals’ decision to the contrary was an unreasonable application of clearly established federal law.”

Dassey’s confession was a key piece of evidence in the conviction of Avery. Avery’s appeals have been denied at multiple levels, most recently in December 2011 by the Wisconsin Supreme Court. The same court refused to hear Dassey’s case in August 2013, forcing him to turn to the federal appeals court.

Dassey’s case was taken on and his lawyers funded by the Center on Wrongful Convictions of Youth, but Avery did not have that luxury and plans to represent himself, since he is not guaranteed a public defender. Public defenders are only guaranteed in state and local courts, not federal courts.

It’s unclear if Dassey’s conviction being thrown out will have any effect on Avery’s future appeals.

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