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Juvenile justice advocates ask Supreme Court to review Dassey case

WASHINGTON, D.C. (WBAY) - Juvenile justice advocates have filed a brief with the United States Supreme Court in support of Brendan Dassey.

Dassey is asking for the high court to review his 2007 conviction for the murder of Teresa Halbach in Manitowoc County. Dassey was sentenced to life in prison for 1st Degree Intentional Homicide.

The amicus brief was filed March 22 by the Juvenile Law Center. It requests the Supreme Court grant Dassey's request for a review.

Advocates claim the Wisconsin Court of Appeals violated federal law when it failed to consider Dassey's age and intellectual limitations during interrogation.

Dassey was 16-years-old when he was questioned about the murder of Teresa Halbach. It was also determined that he had a "low average to borderline" IQ. Dassey confessed to the crime during interrogation, but advocates argue that his age and IQ would render that confession involuntary.

The confession was a big part of the prosecution's case against Dassey and his uncle, Steven Avery.

The brief reads:

"When these facts are properly considered in accordance with this Court’s precedent and combined with the abundant additional evidence of coercion—such as the inconsistencies in the confession, assurances of leniency, and leading questioning—the conclusion that Brendan’s confession was coerced is inescapable. The Wisconsin Court of Appeals’ conclusion to the contrary is based on an analysis that ignores Brendan’s age and individual characteristics, and thus amounts to an unreasonable application of this Court’s precedent."

Dassey's team wants the Supreme Court to review a decision by the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals that upheld Dassey's conviction. In a 4-3 ruling, the majority argued that Dassey's confession to the 2005 murder of Teresa Halbach was voluntary and his constitutional rights were not violated.

That decision overturned a federal judge's ruling that investigators used coercive tactics to get a confession out of Dassey. U.S. Magistrate Judge William Duffin had ruled that repeated false promises by detectives, when considered with other factors like Dassey's age, intellectual deficits and the absence of a supportive adult, led him to determine that Dassey's confession was involuntary under the U.S. Constitution.

Dassey is represented by Steven Drizin and Laura Nirider of the Center on Wrongful Convictions of Youth. The team has been joined by former United States Solicitor General Seth Waxman. Waxman has argued 80 cases before the United States Supreme Court.

Dassey's legal team says if the Supreme Court agrees to hear the case, it will be the first juvenile confession case of its kind to go before the high court in nearly 40 years.

The Wisconsin Department of Justice tells Action 2 News that it agrees with the appeals court's decision. The DOJ will have 30 days to file a response once the Supreme Court dockets the Dassey team's petition.

The appeals process will be featured in the sequel to the Netflix series "Making A Murderer." The first series documented the trials of Steven Avery and Brendan Dassey.

Avery is also appealing his conviction. Attorney Kathleen Zellner has until May 21 to file her brief with the Court of Appeals District 2.

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