WASHINGTON, D.C. — The United States Supreme Court has officially passed on a plea from Brendan Dassey to review his 2007 conviction for the murder of Teresa Halbach.
Dassey, who was 16 at the time, was featured in the popular documentary series Making a Murderer. The show’s depiction of how Dassey confessed prompted many observers to say it looked like police coerced the teenager.
As is standard procedure, the Supreme Court offered no explanation for turning down Dassey’s request.
Dassey is serving a life sentence for assisting his uncle, Steven Avery, in the rape, murder, and dismemberment of photographer Teresa Halbach in Manitowoc County, Wisconsin.
While being questioned in his high school building, Dassey confessed to police on a video that became a focal point of Making a Murderer. After the interrogation, Dassey asked if he could then just go back to class.
Defense attorneys have long argued that the cops illegally pressured and manipulated Dassey. They point out that Dassey was a juvenile who has a low IQ and other developmental limitations, and that he appears on the video to say anything the cops want him to say. After Making a Murderer, a sizable public outcry arose that agreed with that viewpoint.
Upon petitioning the Supreme Court to hear Dassey’s appeal, his lawyers stated:
“Words cannot adequately convey what transpired here; for that the court should review the video of Dassey’s interrogations … It can then draw its own conclusion about whether the interrogators improperly coerced a juvenile with significant intellectual and social limitations.”
Dassey’s case has bounced around various courtrooms in recent years. The Wisconsin Court of Appeals upheld the conviction.
In August 2016, however, a federal appeals-court magistrate ruled in Dassey’s favor and ordered him to be released. That didn’t happen.
By December 2017, the full U.S. Court of Appeals ruled 4-3 against Dassey, and he has remained in jail.
Dassey’s lawyers can continue to fight for him to get a new trial, but they will likely have to prove that previously undiscovered evidence warrants such a procedure.
Brendan Dassey, who is now 28, will be eligible for parole in 2048.
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Main photo: Brendan Dassey [Manitowoc County Sheriff’s Office]