‘Making of a Murderer’ convict Brendan Dassey freed by federal judge

Brendan Dassey was convicted in 2007 of participating in the rape and murder of Theresa Halbach, a 25-year-old photographer and graduate of the University of Wisconsin, who'd come to his family's salvage yard to photograph a vehicle for Auto Trader Magazine. A judge ruled in August that the case against Dassey should be thrown out, given that it was based on an "involuntary" confession obtained when he was just 16. Photo courtesy Manitowoc County (Wisc.) Sheriff's Dept.

MANITOWOC, Wis., Nov. 14 (UPI) — A judge in Wisconsin ordered Monday that Brendan Dassey, who was convicted as a teenager of the sexual assault and murder of a 25-year-old woman, be released from prison.

Dassey, 27, whose case was featured on the Netflix series “Making of a Murderer” last year, has been incarcerated since 2006 after confessing to taking part in the rape, murder and mutilation of Theresa Halbach, along with his uncle, Steven Avery. He was convicted, and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole before 2048.

Dassy’s conviction was overturned in August, with federal judge William Duffin saying Dassey must be released within 90 days because his confession cannot be considered to have been voluntary, considering that he was not represented by an attorney, had no parent accompanying him, has “mental deficiencies” and because police made “false promises” to him to get him to confess.

“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,” Duffin wrote.

Prosecutors vigorously disagreed, saying police never raised their voices with Dassey, that the first interview took place with him sitting on the couch in a cabin owned by his family, sipping a soda, and that he was informed of all of his rights.

Dassey was 16 at the time of Halbach’s murder and living with his mother, brothers, maternal grandparents and uncle on the family’s 40-acre property in Manitowoc County, which also housed the family-owned Avery Salvage Yard.

Halbach went to the salvage yard on Oct. 31, 2005, to photograph a minivan owned by Steven Avery for Auto Trader Magazine. She was reported missing by her family a few days later, and her burned remains were later found on the Avery property, along with her Toyota Rav4, her license plate, cell phone and car key. Steven Avery’s blood was found in the Toyota.

Avery’s niece, who also lived on the property, told police that Brendan Dassey, her cousin, had been “acting up” recently – staring into space and then crying uncontrollably, and that he had lost 40 pounds.

Police interviewed him four times, and Dassey confessed to helping his uncle commit the crimes. He later recanted in a letter to the judge.

The case got international attention when it was featured on “Making of a Murderer.” Following the show, Dassey got a new defense attorney.

A federal judge granted Dassey’s motion for release on Monday, with several conditions.

Dassey cannot travel outside of the Eastern District of Wisconsin, cannot get a passport, and is not allowed to possess weapons or any controlled substances. He has also been ordered to not have any contact with his uncle, Steven Avery, or with the family of Theresa Halbach.

Steven Avery was also convicted of rape, murder and mutilation of a corpse in 2006 and remains in prison.

The state has the option to refile the case against Dassey.


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