Brendan Dassey: Is Freedom Around The Corner? Appeals Process Drags On

Brendan Dassey in surveillance footage of interrogation [Calumet County]

Brendan Dassey was just a teenager when he was convicted of murdering freelance photographer Teresa Halbach. The reaction to Dassey’s conviction was overwhelming. The majority of viewers who watched Netflix’s Making a Murderer were furious, to say the least, that Dassey was coerced into a false confession. Earlier this year, United States Magistrate Judge William Duffin overturned Dassey’s conviction, but the initial celebration quickly turned sour when the state appealed the decision.

Related: “Making A Murderer”: Federal Judge Orders Brendan Dassey’s Release

Motions and Appeals
In late November, Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel filed a motion for a stay on Duffin’s decision to overturn Dassey’s murder conviction. According to Schimel, Dassey is where he belongs, and the state is fighting to keep him behind bars for a reason.

“We believe the magistrate judge’s decision that Brendan Dassey’s confession was coerced by investigators, and that no reasonable court could have concluded otherwise, is wrong on the facts and wrong on the law,” Schimel said in November.

Related: “Making A Murderer”: Federal Appeals Court Blocks Brendan Dassey’s Release

Dassey’s family was working diligently with probation officials to get him released in time for Thanksgiving, and the news of the motion to stay the overturned conviction crushed their spirits. Yet, Bob Dvorak, Dassey’s lawyer, said it isn’t over yet. The attorney filed an appeal, although it may take a while before a decision is made. “We have confidence in our position in the Court of Appeals,” said Dvorak.

As unfortunate as it is for Dassey and his loved ones, the wheels of justice are known to be notoriously slow. What this means for Dassey is that although his attorney is appealing the motion to keep him behind bars, it could likely take a year or more before any results are seen. Joe Friedberg, a Minnesota-based attorney (not involved in the case) thinks that Dassey could remain behind bars for an additional three years before the court gets to his appeal.

Is Brendan Dassey Guilty?
In November 2005, when Dassey was only 16 years old, some of Halbach’s remains were found in a burn barrel on his uncle Steven Avery’s property. Detectives called Dassey in to a local police station, giving him the impression that they wanted to ask him a few more questions about Halbach (he’d already been interviewed previously). What started out as a quick interview turned into an interogation lasting numerous hours.

Related: “Making A Murderer’s” Steven Avery Speaks Out To Supporters: “I’m Innocent”

The teen, seen in parts of the Calumet County surveillance footage on the popular Making a Murderer documentary series, appeared clearly confused as investigators drilled him about Halbach. Dassey seemed more concerned about missing a test in one of his classes than he did about being implicated in Halbach’s murder.

Dassey, a special-education student, later said that he was confused by the detectives’ constant questions, and in turn began telling them what they wanted to hear. Initially, many of his answers didn’t match up to what authorities knew about Halbach’s death, but Dassey allegedly changed his story to match theirs, which ultimately cost him his freedom. During the four-hour investigation, Dassey admitted to helping his uncle Steven Avery move Halbach’s lifeless body after raping and murdering her.

Is Dassey really guilty? His conviction was largely based on an unconstitutional confession and scant circumstantial evidence. Millions of people, including Judge Duffin, believe the false confession isn’t evidence that Dassey actually participated in Halbach’s murder. Duffin wrote:

“Investigators repeatedly claimed to already know what happened on [the day of the murder] and assured Dassey that he had nothing to worry about. These repeated false promises, when considered in conjunction with all relevant factors, most especially Dassey’s age, intellectual deficits, and the absence of a supportive adult, rendered Dassey’s confession involuntary under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments.”

On the other hand, others feel that since Dassey’s entire confession wasn’t included in Making a Murderer, viewers are getting one-sided information from a “biased documentary,” especially those who haven’t dug further into the case.

Furthermore, although she later recanted, Dassey’s cousin, Kayla, told authorities that Dassey admitted that he helped “move a body,” and that he had bleach stains on his pants on the night Avery is said to have murdered Halbach. Detectives later found that Avery’s garage, where they say Halbach was shot, had been thoroughly cleaned and bleached by the suspects before they investigated the scene.

What’s Next for Dassey?
It appears a waiting game is in play for Dassey. Although his family hopes he’ll see freedom soon, there’s never a time guarantee when it comes to court hearings. There’s a chance Dassey could walk free within months, but by court standards, that’s simply wishful thinking.

In the meantime, the second series of Making a Murderer is currently underway. It’ll focus on the coverage of Dassey’s appeal process, and the ordeal his family has been going through while trying to fight for his freedom.

Watch Investigation Discovery’s special about the case, “Steven Avery: Innocent or Guilty?” with ID Go.

Read more:
WISN
CNN
NPR
Business Insider

Main photo: Brendan Dassey in surveillance footage of interrogation [Calumet County]


  • Tom Ihlenfeld

    Everyone seems to bypass the part of the story where Dassey’s female cousin was responsible for bringing Dassey into this in the first place. Dassey was not even under suspicion until she came to the police with that story. So she recanted, Dassey recanted. Whole family nothing but a bunch of liars as far as I am concerned.

    • Nathan

      “Furthermore, although she later recanted, Dassey’s cousin, Kayla, told authorities that Dassey admitted that he helped “move a body,” and that he had bleach stains on his pants on the night Avery is said to have murdered Halbach.”

      Looks like this story mentions it, but I agree with you. Most recounts skip that cousin entirely (biased reporting?). I’m glad I’m not the only one who doesn’t believe in this false confession thing. He admitted then recanted by his own doing, not bc police forced a false confession (awaits the Dassey defenders).

      • Tom Ihlenfeld

        Yes this is one of the few stories that mention it at all. The entire legal system is on trial for the Dassey confession yet this cousin gets a pass for being responsible for Dasseys incarceration as much as anyone. When this cousin recanted in the courtroom while up on the stand, she certainly was under enormous pressure to do so by the family whether what she initially said was true or not. You don’t think the jurors and others in the courtroom didn’t think she was lying? Sure they did. You cannot get a feel of the atmosphere in that courtroom unless you were there. Her story was consistent with what Dassey later said. I watched the full interrogation. In my opinion he offered plenty on his own to incriminate himself. Most of what everyone has seen are abbreviated clips of full confession. Dasseys Mother gets a pass also I guess. Changed her story from not wishing to be in the interview with her son to she was not allowed to. None of that family has an ounce of credibility and I think all in the courtroom saw that. I think they got it right because they were there. I don’t think Dassey is as dumb as he acts. It certainly is to his advantage now to play it for all it is worth. Everyone is entitled to their opinion on this and that is mine.

        • Nathan

          You touched on something very important. The mom decided NOT TO BE IN THE ROOM when Dassey was interrogated. I read everywhere that she was denied that right and that is 100% a lie. She let her kid go in there and detectives thoroughly investigated (as they should) and he confessed. Yes they were harsh on a kid, yes they probably went too far, but that doesn’t alleviate guilt.