Brendan Dassey, who appeared in the Netflix documentary series Making A Murderer, will remain in prison after a federal appeals court in the United States overturned a ruling that could potentially have allowed him to walk free.
In a tight four-to-three decision handed down on Friday, the full court of the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected an earlier decision by a three-judge panel, finding that police properly obtained Dassey’s confession, and that he was not coerced.
Delivering the majority opinion, Judge David Hamilton said that despite his young age at the time, his low intellect and apparent suggestibility, Dassey confessed of his own free will.
Hamilton noted that Dassey gave “many of the most damning details himself in response to open‐ended questions”, and said:
“Dassey spoke with the interrogators freely, after receiving and understanding Miranda warnings, and with his mother’s consent. The interrogation took place in a comfortable setting, without any physical coercion or intimidation, without even raised voices, and over a relatively brief time.”
In dissent, Judge Ilana Rovner called the decision to uphold the confession a “travesty of justice”, saying that there was no other evidence to tie Dassey to the crime, and adding:
“… even if we were to overlook the coercion, the confession is so riddled with input from the police that its use violates due process. Dassey will spend the rest of his life in prison because of the injustice this court has decided to leave unredressed.”
Brendan Dassey was sentenced to life in prison in 2007 after telling police he assisted his uncle Steven Avery in the rape and murder of photographer Teresa Halbach. He has remained in prison throughout the appeals process, and will stay there for now.
His lawyers will have the option of appealing the federal court’s ruling in the US Supreme Court, but they have not yet announced if they will take this course of action.