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  • Writer's pictureTracy Keogh

Advocacy in a World of Wrongful Convictions

Kelly Loudenberg’s topical odyssey “The Confession Tapes” aired in the September of 2017 satiating a global appetite for tales of the unjust, piqued via Netflix’s iconic docu-series, Making a Murderer.

A journalist and documentarian, Loundeberg profiled a series of probable false confessions that probed the labyrinthine counterplot of wrongful convictions. From the grief-stricken Karen Boes and Lawrence DeLisle to the pulverising naivety of Atif Rafay and Sebastian Burns, thousands devoured every pixel chronicling the seemingly erroneous miscarriages of justice laid before them. Emotive, egregious and a reiteration of a criminal justice system helter-skeltering between political tinkering and reform, the masses were stirred, but the sustained outrage was missing.

A ground swell of advocacy was focused elsewhere.

The people had converged on the continued wrongful conviction and incarceration of Brendan Dassey.

Making a Murderer

Unleashed on a benign festive audience in the December of 2015, Making a Murderer induced a visceral response that is as potent and flammable now, as it was when first gorged upon. The true-crime genre was rapidly establishing itself as a cultural phenomenon, with the unheralded success of the Serial podcast, The Jinx and the imbroglio that was the OJ Simpson trial.

The Innocence Project

The innocence movement was breathing in the background, individuals such as Kate Germond and Jim McCloskey had spearheaded Centurion Ministries in the early 80’s to be joined later by the Innocence Project and a catalogue of juvenile justice advocates. Among them the Center on Wrongful Convictions of Youth, pioneers in the juvenile space who have traversed the State and Federal court system seeking justice for Brendan and countless other juveniles abandoned at the hands of an adversarial system that seeks a conviction over the truth.

Where once mainstream programming distorted crime scene investigation with commercially packaged brands such as CSI and Law and Order, the demographic, post Making a Murderer has dug granular. Deep diving and leaving the banality of fiction in their wake, they have taken to social media and blog platforms the world over, advocating for change, championing those who have been tasked with defending the defenceless and campaigning for revolution at a grass roots level.

Brendan Dassey a Case of National Importance

So why not Atif Rafay or Lawrence DeLisle? Why has Dassey’s ‘profound miscarriage of justice’ resonated so deeply? From the confronting interrogations, to the timid, vulnerable young man who aimed to please and appease, Brendan became every suggestible, frightened child. With an affect that confused law enforcement, Brendan and his limitations were failed at the hands of outdated doctrine and small-town prosecutors ill acquainted with In Re Gault and Supreme Court precedent.

On May 12th, 2006, Judge Jerome L. Fox denied Brendan’s motion to suppress, Brendan without legal advocacy was tagged DOC #516985 in the April of 2007. A slow crawl to December 18th, 2015 found Netflix’s 10-part docuseries Making a Murderer seeping into the homes of millions of ready made advocates across the globe. In Brendan, they saw their son, their brother or nephew, Brendan’s story was an affront to any sense of decency or humanity. Brendan’s letter had been heard.

The Wrongfully Convicted

Albeit potentially one of thousands who sit wrongfully convicted across the United States, subservient to a system that enslaves the weak, the developmentally delayed and young - Brendan became of international importance.

Brendan represents the subjugated, the vulnerable and forgotten, directly instigating change within the juvenile justice arena. Brendan is a martyr no longer, but a resilient young man spearheading a Supreme Court movement to ensure the use of ‘special care’ in juvenile interrogations and that a child’s particular vulnerabilities are considered throughout every stage of the criminal justice process. FreeBrendanDassey

Join Brendan's family support group @

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