UPDATE: The Supreme Court announced Monday that it has declined to hear the appeal of Brendan Dassey, the subject of the popular Netflix true crime documentary Making a Murderer. The court did not issue a reason for the denial.
Making a Murderer subject Brendan Dassey will remain behind bars after a federal appeals court in Chicago narrowly overturned a 2016 ruling that would have allowed Dassey to go free.
In August 2016, a judge ruled that the then-16-year-old Dassey was coerced into confessing his role in the 2005 murder of Teresa Halbach; Dassey and his uncle Steven Avery were both sentenced to life in prison after being convicted of Halbach’s murder. In June 2017, the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago affirmed that August 2016 ruling by a 2-to-1 count, but the state of Wisconsin requested that seven members of that court hear the appeal.
On Friday, the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals ruled, by a 4-to-3 margin, that Dassey’s confession was not coerced. “The state courts’ finding that Dassey’s confession was voluntary was not beyond fair debate, but we conclude it was reasonable,” the court’s decision stated.
However, the appeals court judges were not unanimous in the decision, with Judge Ilana Diamond Rovner saying of Dassey in her dissent, “His confession was not voluntary and his conviction should not stand, and yet an impaired teenager has been sentenced to life in prison. I view this as a profound miscarriage of justice,” the Associated Press reports.
Dassey’s only remaining legal option would be to take the case to the U.S. Supreme Court, which Dassey’s attorneys Laura Nirider and Robert Drizin pledged to do.
“Today’s ruling contravenes a fundamental and time-honored position of the United States Supreme Court: interrogation tactics that may not be coercive when applied to adults are coercive when applied to children and the mentally impaired,” Dassey’s legal team told the AP.
Avery’s former lawyer Jerome Buting tweeted of the Dassey decision, “The Illusion of Justice continues, with the horrific decision of 4 judges on 7th Cir. to uphold Brendan Dassey’s conviction. Dissenting Judge Wood proclaims: “Dassey will spend the rest of his life in prison because of the injustice this court has decided to leave unredressed. Two strong dissents in 4-3 Dassey decision strengthen chance for SCOTUS review. Judge Wood details majority opinion flaws which ‘essentially read habeas corpus relief out of the books.’ SCOTUS in 2011: habeas still stands as ‘guard against extreme malfunctions’ in state justice.”
In October 2017, Avery’s lawyer Kathleen Zellner announced she had uncovered new evidence that implicated Dassey’s older brother Bobby in the Halbach murder.