MILWAUKEE (UPI) — An appeals court on Friday upheld the conviction of Brendan Dassey, the Wisconsin man imprisoned for his role in a murder case described in the Netflix show Making a Murderer.
Dassey, 28, is serving a lifetime prison sentence for the October 2005 sexual assault, murder and mutilation of photographer Teresa Halbach in Manitowoc County. His uncle, Steven Avery, is also serving a lifetime prison sentence in Halbach’s killing. Avery did a previous stint in prison after he was wrongly convicted of rape.
The criminal investigation into Halbach’s death and the court proceedings against Avery and Dassey were featured in the 2015 Netflix documentary series Making a Murderer.
In 2016, a U.S. Magistrate overturned Dassey’s conviction, saying investigators “repeated false promises” while interrogating Dassey, who was 16 years old at the time of Halbach’s death. A three-person panel of judges from the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld that magistrate’s decision this summer, but a larger gathering of the court’s judges determined this week that Dassey’s conviction should be upheld.
They ruled by a 4-3 margin that investigators did not coerce Dassey.
“When Dassey’s story did not make sense, seemed incomplete, or seemed to conflict with other evidence, the questioners pressed Dassey with further questions,” Judge David Hamilton wrote for the majority. “Those techniques are not coercive. Dassey responded to such questioning by modifying his story on some points, but he stuck to his story on others. Those passages support the view that he was not being pushed to provide a false story against his will.”
But dissenting Judge Ilana Rovner, who considered Dassey an “intellectually impaired juvenile” at the time of his questioning, said he was coerced.
“His confession was not voluntary and his conviction should not stand, and yet an impaired teenager has been sentenced to life in prison,” Rovner wrote. “I view this as a profound miscarriage of justice.”
Avery has also contested his conviction. The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reported that he has a new lawyer compiling evidence to lobby for a retrial of his case.
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