Judge Orders Release of ‘Making a Murderer’ Subject

By Molly Willms

MILWAUKEE (CN) – Wisconsin said it will plead with the Seventh Circuit to keep Brendan Dassey of “Making a Murderer” fame imprisoned pending a federal appeal of his recently overturned conviction.

Dassey, a 16-year-old with “intellectual deficits” at the time of his interrogation and arrest, was convicted of assisting his uncle, Steven Avery, in the rape and murder of Theresa Halbach in 2005.

A recent documentary series released on Netflix’s streaming service strongly suggests the pair were wrongfully convicted so that rural Manitowoc County could avoid paying a large settlement following Avery’s exoneration for a prior crime.

The series generated new interest in the 11-year-old case, including harsh criticism of the investigators who questioned Dassey without a parent or lawyer present and promised lenience that never appeared. Dassey was sentenced to life in prison with no possibility of parole until 2048.

U.S. Magistrate Judge William E. Duffin reversed his conviction on Aug. 12, finding the interrogator’s “false promises” and suggestive interrogation techniques, combined with Dassey’s age, inexperience and intellectual disabilities, rendered his confession involuntary.

The state appealed the grant of habeas corpus relief to the Seventh Circuit, opposing 27-year-old Dassey’s petition to be released pending that court’s decision, but Duffin found the arguments for the latter unpersuasive.

“Dassey remains in custody pursuant to what this court found to be a conviction obtained by way of unconstitutionally obtained evidence,” Duffin wrote in an order released Monday. “He has already been incarcerated for over a decade, nearly 40 percent of his entire life.”

The state’s argument that the court lacks jurisdiction to release him fell flat, and it offered no conditions of release in the event the court disagreed.

Dassey, on the other hand, provided the court a “detailed release plan” prepared with social worker Kasia Majerczak’s help.

In the plan, Majerczak states Dassey can live with his parents in a secluded mobile home as he adjusts to living as an adult outside the prison system. After that, he can transition to a rental property in Brown County, where he will have access to a variety of community resources.

Duffin approved this plan, noting that Majerczak will remain involved during Dassey’s transition.

Dassey will still be subject to strict regulations, including refraining from consuming any controlled substance, notifying the court of any change of address and being available for home visits from the federal probation office.

He is also not allowed to have any contact with Avery or Halbach’s family.

As of late Monday evening, the state had not filed a stay request with the Seventh Circuit, but pledged via an emailed statement earlier in the day to do so.