Brendan Dassey, the nephew of Steven Avery and one of the subjects of Netflix’s Making a Murderer, is to be released from prison after his conviction in the death of Teresa Halbach was overturned.
Dassey was convicted in 2007 of first-degree intentional homicide, mutilation of a corpse and second-degree sexual assault in the killing of Halbach in Manitowoc County, Wisc. and was sentenced to life with no parole for 41 years. He was only 17 years old at the time.
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He was a mere 16 when Halbach was killed in 2005 after she went to the Avery family auto salvage yard to photograph some vehicles.
Dassey confessed to helping Avery carry out the rape and murder of Halbach, but lawyers argued that the confession was coerced.
Netflix’s Making a Murderer is a 10-part documentary series that follows the case of Wisconsin natives Avery and Dassey. Avery is currently serving a life sentence (without the possibility for parole) for Halbach’s murder and illegally possessing a firearm. Avery, who had previously been jailed for 18 years for a sexual assault in 1985, was exonerated in that case by DNA evidence in 2003.
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Two years later, Avery brought a US$36-million lawsuit against Manitowoc County for the wrongful conviction. The documentary series calls into question the investigation and trial that put Avery and Dassey behind bars, and alleges the investigators and police in the case planted evidence and otherwise manipulated the outcome of the trial.
U.S. Magistrate Judge William E. Duffin wrote in his decision:
“The investigators repeatedly claimed to already know what happened on Oct. 31 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.”
Dassey is to be released from custody within 90 days if the state does not refile. He is being held at Columbia Correctional Institution.
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Avery remains convicted of murder, but continues to appeal that conviction from prison. It’s not immediately clear if Dassey’s overturned conviction will have any impact on Avery’s case.
In a series of tweets Friday, Avery’s criminal defence lawyer Jerome Buting applauded the decision.
“Avery is next. Time to go after the real killer.” Buting tweeted.
State of Wisconsin should accept federal court decision and drop case against Brendan Dassey. Avery is next. Time to go after real killer.
— Jerome Buting (@JButing) August 12, 2016
With a file from The Associated Press
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