MILWAUKEE (CN) – Scrambling to keep a man many believe was wrongfully convicted behind bars, Wisconsin’s Justice Department asked a federal judge to decide by Wednesday afternoon whether Brendan Dassey of “Making a Murderer” fame should be released.
Assistant Attorney General Jacob Wittwer asked that U.S. Magistrate Judge William Duffin address Tuesday’s motion to stay by the end of the day Wednesday, claiming the confession the judge determined was coerced from the intellectually-disabled teen does not mean he is innocent.
“The public interest favors continued custody in these circumstances, regardless of Dassey’s recent conduct in a controlled prison setting,” Wittwer wrote in the state’s motion to stay.
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, now 27 years old, was sentenced to life in prison with no possibility of parole until 2048.
Judge 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.
On Monday, Duffin granted Dassey’s petition for release pending the outcome of the state’s appeal of his grant of habeas relief.
As soon as the federal probation authorities approve Dassey’s proposed residence and “complete whatever additional investigation it deems necessary,” Duffin said he would issue an order for his release.
The state returned to its argument that the federal district court lacks jurisdiction to release Dassey, a claim Duffin previously ruled was without merit.
Duffin granted a stay of habeas relief pending appeal to the Seventh Circuit, according to the state.
Wittwer says the Seventh Circuit is unlikely to overturn a conviction based on a coerced confession from a juvenile with intellectual disabilities – in cases more egregious than this one, the appeals court has upheld convictions, he said.
“Because approximately 32 years remain on Dassey’s sentence, the State’s interest in Dassey’s continued custody and rehabilitation is particularly compelling,” Wittwer wrote.
The motion to say requests that Duffin issue an order by 4 p.m. local time Wednesday, and says the state will file an emergency motion with the Seventh Circuit on Wednesday.
As of Wednesday morning, Duffin had not responded to the state’s motion.
Neither of Dassey’s attorneys immediately responded to voicemails requesting comment.