Brendan Dassey, whose conviction for rape and murder when he was a teenager was documented in the Netflix series Making a Murderer, could be set for release or re-trial after federal judges backed a ruling that he was coerced into confessing.
Brendan Dassey, 27, was sentenced to life behind bars in 2007 over photographer Teresa Halbach's death two years earlier. His confession formed the basis of much of the prosecution's case against his uncle, Steven Avery, who was convicted in a separate trial and sentenced to life.
August 2, 2007: Dassey is sentenced to mandatory life in prison with a possibility of parole set for November 1, 2048.
Lawyers have vowed to fight to free Dassey, whose case garnered global attention after featuring in the popular Netflix series.
"We are overjoyed for Brendan and his family, and we look forward to working to secure his release from prison as soon as possible", according to a statement.
Last year, a judge ordered that he be released as he said the confession was coerced and consideration had to be given "to his age, intellectual deficits and the absence of a supportive adult".
In his petition for release, Dassey argued that his attorney had a conflict of interest in the case.
Johnny Koremenos, a spokesman for Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel, said the office expects to seek review by the full 7th Circuit or the U.S. Supreme Court, and hopes "that today's erroneous decision will be reversed". "We continue to send our condolences to the Halbach family as they have to suffer through another attempt by Mr. Dassey to re-litigate his guilty verdict and sentence". The majority of the three-judge panel agreed with Duffin that Dassey's confession was involuntary.
"While these tactics might not have overwhelmed a seasoned criminal or a 30-year-old with a law degree, they clearly overwhelmed a 16-year-old, socially avoidant, intellectually limited [youth] who had never been interrogated by the police before", he said.
Judge Hamilton said that the decision "breaks new ground and poses troubling questions for police and prosecutors".
The ruling stated that prosecutors' case against Dassey in the original trial rested nearly entirely on Dassey's interviews with police and one phone call with his mother - but no physical evidence. For now, he will remain in jail, pending the Wisconsin Department of Justice's next move. In another version, Dassey told detectives that he heard screaming from his uncle's house as he brought him his mail. During a three-hour interview in March 2006, Dassey confessed that he raped Halbach, cut her throat, tied her up and took her to Avery's garage, where Avery shot the young woman in the head.