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  • Mark Leland

Brendan Dassey's freedom hinges on U.S. Court of Appeals hearing

(Herald Times Reporter/Eric Young via AP, Pool)

CHICAGO -- (WLUK) - The fate of convicted killer Brendan Dassey is in the hands of the U. S. Court of Appeals in Chicago.

The court will hear arguments Tuesday morning to decide whether Dassey's conviction should be overturned. Dassey along with his uncle Steven Avery were convicted in separate trials in the 2005 murder of Teresa Halbach.

The successful prosecution of then 17-year-old Brendan Dassey in adult court hinged on Dassey's own words during several videotaped confessions.

Dassey was interrogated by investigators without his lawyer or another adult representative present. That confession helped authorities piece together the case against Dassey and his uncle Steven Avery. Prosecutors presented Dassey's videotaped confession as evidence in only his trial in 2007.

Dassey also took the stand during his trial, recanting that confession. But jurors took just four and a half hours to deliberate finding Dassey guilty of first degree murder, second degree sexual assault and mutilation of a corpse. He was sentenced to mandatory life in prison with a possibility of parole in November of 2048.

Dassey's legal representation filed a motion for a new trial in 2010. That motion would be denied.

A writ of habeas corpus for the unlawful detention of Dassey was filed in federal court. Later that year the airing of the Netflix documentary Making a Murderer drew attention to the case raising new public concerns about the Dasey confession being coerced. Then this past August a Federal Judge ruled-- overturning Dassey's conviction.

At issue that confession... the judge in his decision wrote given Dassey's age, intellectual deficits, the absence of an attorney or other representation, and false promises made by investigators...."Dassey's confession was clearly involuntary."

The judge added "without Dassey's March 1, 2006 confession, retrail, reconviction, and re-incarceration are unlikely."

Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimmel filed an appeal to the ruling. The state rejects that authorities coerced Dassey into falsely confessing to Halbach's murder. And in its legal briefs indicate the judge erred in ruling the promises made to Dassey during interrogations make his confession involuntary.

In November the judge ordered Dassey's release, but Schimmel filed an emergency motion to stop the release.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit in Chicago blocked Dassey getting out of prison while the appeal is considered.

Attorney's for both sides have filed written briefs with the court ahead of time. Their appearance in court will allow them 20 minutes each to verbally make their case. As for the U-S Court of Appeals-- there is no timetable for a decision--to either uphold or overturn Dassey's conviction.

In the meantime Dassey remains behind bars at Columbia Correctional Institution in Portage.


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