MILWAUKEE (CN) – A Wisconsin man who confessed to rape and murder when he was a 16-year-old with intellectual disabilities will be freed Friday, unless the Seventh Circuit intervenes for the state.
Brendan Dassey of “Making a Murderer” fame was subject to interrogation techniques the Seventh Circuit has approved multiple times in the past, state prosecutors argue, despite various district courts ruling them involuntary.
Dassey 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, now 27 years old, was sentenced to life in prison with no possibility of parole until 2048.
U.S. Magistrate Judge William 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.
Duffin also said he had “significant doubts as to the reliability of Dassey’s confession” based on the way in which he responded to investigators’ questions.
On Monday, Duffin granted Dassey’s petition for release pending the outcome of the state’s appeal of his grant of habeas relief. Yesterday, the judge set a date for Dassey’s release: Friday at 8 p.m.
Though its recycled arguments failed a second time to persuade Duffin to keep Dassey in custody while his grant of habeas relief is appealed, the Wisconsin Department of Justice tried them again with the Seventh Circuit, asking for a ruling that will halt Dassey’s release on Friday.
The state’s motion, filed Wednesday and signed by Deputy Solicitor General Luke Berg, again raises the argument that the lower court was procedurally barred from releasing Dassey after the state appealed his grant of habeas relief.
The state also claims that releasing Dassey would be a danger to the public and the Halbach family.
Dassey’s attorney, Laura Nirider of the Bluhm Clinic at the Northwestern University School of Law in Illinois, fired back that the state’s arguments have “absolutely no legal or factual foundation.”
“In essence, the appellant wants this court to erase the district court’s grant of bond, so it can throw its old arguments against a new wall – the Seventh Circuit – to see if they stick,” Nirider wrote in response. “But its request to stay Mr. Dassey’s release, which carries no cost to the state, comes at enormous cost to Mr. Dassey.”