On Monday, the United States Supreme Court denied a plea to intervene in the case of 28-year-old Brendan Dassey, Reuters reports. In 2007, Dassey and his uncle Steven Avery were sentenced to life in prison for the 2005 rape and murder of 25-year-old photographer Teresa Halbach in Manitowoc County, Wisconsin – a crime brought to international attention care of Netflix true crime doco Making A Murderer in 2015.
A number of appeals have been put forward by Dassey’s lawyers since his conviction, in a separate trial to his uncle, which then gathered momentum after the release of the documentary, as it appeared to show the then-16-year-old Dassey being coerced under interrogation into confessing to Halbach’s rape and murder.
In 2016, US magistrate judge William E Duffin overturned Dassey’s conviction and later ordered that he be immediately released, after finding his confession was coerced, involuntary and thus unconstitutional. His release was blocked within days by a federal appeals court, pending a hearing.
Then in 2017, Dassey’s original conviction was upheld by the US Circuit Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, a federal court with jurisdiction over the Eastern District of Wisconsin. Judges noted that while Dassey was just 16 at the time of his confession, with a low intellect and apparent suggestibility, he had in fact confessed of his own free will, supplying many “of the most damning details himself in response to open-ended questions“.
They also pointed to the fact thats while Dassey did not have a lawyer present at the time of the interrogations, he was read his legal rights, and was only interviewed after receiving his mother’s consent.
His case was then taken up to the US Supreme Court, who have refused to hear Dassey’s appeal against the Seventh Circuit Court’s ruling. As The Washington Post notes, the Supreme Court do not supply reasons for their judgments.
Dassey’s lawyers say that Dassey, “a 16-year old with intellectual and social disabilities“, was questioned four times over a 48-hour period, and argue that videotapes of his interrogations show police investigators supplying Dassey with details about the killing he did not already know.
“We will continue to fight to free Brendan Dassey,” said attorney Laura Nirider from Northwestern Pritzker School of Law’s Centre on Wrongful Convictions of Youth in a statement. “The video of Brendan’s interrogation shows a confused boy who was manipulated by experienced police officers into accepting their story of how the murder of Teresa Halbach happened.”
Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel said: “We hope the family and friends of Ms Halbach can find comfort in knowing this ordeal has finally come to a close.”