BRENDAN DASSEY: A TRUE STORY OF A WRONGFUL CONVICTION
"This case is of exceptional importance to the national community of advocates seeking to defend the constitutional rights of children, particularly children" - Marsha Levick
Brendan Ray Dassey (born October 19, 1989) a native of Manitowoc County, Wisconsin, was 17 years and 6 months old when wrongfully convicted of being party to first-degree homicide in the death of Teresa Halbach. Brendan was sentenced to life in prison with eligibility for parole in 2048 by jury of his peers on the 25th April 2007. Forward post Making a Murderer.
On August 12th, 2016, Federal Magistrate Judge William E Duffin overturned Brendan's conviction with a 91-page Habeas Corpus opinion finding the confession involuntarily obtained and in violation of his Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments. The State of Wisconsin appealed this decision.
Brendan's videotaped interrogations played a pivotal role in Netflix's 10-part doco-series from directors Laura Riccardi and Moira Demos; Making a Murderer.
Not culpable for anything more than naiveté about how the legal system works and in the absence of an attorney, Brendan was interrogated on four separate occasions over a 48-hour period. Including three times in a 24-hour time frame with no legal representation, parent or other interested adult present.
A victim of 'ineffective counsel' Brendan's defense counsel, Len Kachinsky conspired with the prosecution to not only implicate and convict Brendan but coerce and manipulate him into testifying against his Uncle Steven Avery. Defense investigator Michael O'Kelly conducted a deeply disturbing interrogation of his client, the details of which came to light in Brendan's post-conviction hearing in 2010. Defense counsel Robert Dvorak tracked O'Kelly across the country and ‘slapped him with a subpoena’. This would be the first time Michael O'Kelly's coercive interrogation was witnessed by the defense, showing O'Kelly's obvious ploy to prep Brendan for the prosecution in the case against Steven Avery. A young, suggestible and intellectually limited Brendan was no match for the coercive techniques deployed by detectives Mark Wiegert and Tom Fassbender, resulting in a false, coerced confession. Judge William E Duffin found these tactics to have "resulted in constitutionally impermissible promises.”
In the absence of any evidence or DNA linking Brendan Dassey to the crime, late 2007 saw his post-conviction team led by the then Legal Director of the renowned Center on Wrongful Convictions of Youth, Professor Steven Drizin, Professor Tom Geraghty, Robert Dvorak and a young law student by the name of Laura Nirider, take up the post-conviction fight for Brendan's freedom.
Laura Nirider, now Brendan's lead counsel, alongside Professor Drizin, Robert Dvorak and the specialisation of the Centre on Wrongful Convictions of Youth took to a packed court room facing off against Luke Berg; representing the State of Wisconsin - oral arguments February 14th 2017.. A three-judge panel consisting of Judges William, Rovner and Hamilton bore witness to an impassioned Nirider who argued emphatically, defending Brendan's constitutional rights in the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago.
June 22nd, 2017 saw the three-judge panel uphold the magistrate's decision to overturn Brendan's conviction. The appellate panel split with Judges Ilana Diamond Rovner and Ann Williams affirming and David Hamilton in dissent. The majority opinion by Judge Rovner said "no reasonable court" could have any confidence that Dassey's confession was voluntary. It cited "the leading, the fact-feeding, the false promises, the manipulation of Dassey's desire to please" as among many factors that cast it in doubt.
As the fight to free Brendan intensified the State of Wisconsin successfully requested an en banc hearing from the 7th Circuit. On the 7th July 2017, the 7th Circuit Court requested a response from Brendan's team in opposition to the State's petition by the 20th July 2017. On August 4th, 2017, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals granted the State of Wisconsin’s request for an en banc hearing with oral arguments set for September 26th in the Ceremonial Courtroom of the Seventh Circuit in Chicago before a full panel of sitting judges.
Brendan's grant of Habeas was reversed in a 4-3 decision, December 8th, 2017. The Chicago based 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld state court findings that Dassey's confession was voluntary and could be used against him. The fight continues all the way to the Supreme Court of the United States, with Brendans legal team now bolstered by former US Solicitor General and seasoned Supreme Court litigator, Mr Seth Waxman and his team from William, Cutler, Pickering, Hale and Dorr LLP based out of Washington D.C. Brendan's writ of certiorari was filed with the US Supreme Court on February 20th 2018.
Highlighting the magnitude of Brendan's case & in furthering the protections of juveniles within the legal system, an unheard of 'tsunami' of Amicus briefs were filed in support of Brendan's writ including, The Innocence Network, Current and Former Prosecutors, Professors of Criminal law, the Juvenile Law Center and the American Psychological Association.
On June 25th 2018 Brendan Dassey's petition was dismissed at the hands of an unforgiving cert pool. An eight year trek to justice faltering as the US Supreme Court left juvenile justice and the question of voluntariness in the dark ages.
The fight to free Brendan continues. We join with all those who believe in Brendan, in that fight,
"What occurred here was the interrogation of an intellectually impaired juvenile. Dassey was subjected to myriad psychologically coercive techniques but the state court did not review his interrogation with the special care required by Supreme Court precedent. His confession was not voluntary and his conviction should not stand, and yet an impaired teenager has been sentenced to life in prison. I view this as a profound miscarriage of justice" - Judge ILana Rovner