Steven Avery’s one-time defense lawyers Dean Strang and Jerry Buting are “relieved and gratified” after a Wisconsin judge overturned the conviction of Brendan Dassey, whose murder trial was documented alongside Avery’s in Netflix’s Making a Murderer.
“Today there was a major development for the subjects in our story and this recent news shows the criminal justice system at work. As we have done for the past 10 years, we will continue to document the story as it unfolds, and follow it wherever it may lead,” Making a Murderer‘s directors Laura Ricciardi and Moira Demos said in a statement following the Dassey decision.
On Friday, Judge William E. Duffin struck down Dassey’s life in prison sentence without warning – TMZ reports that neither Making a Murderer producers or Dassey’s family had prior knowledge of the judge’s unexpected decision – after ruling that the then-teenager lacked the mental acuity to endure four interrogations.
The federal judge also criticized Dassey’s defense attorney at the time for allowing police to question Dassey without legal representation or a guardian present, with Duffin saying Dassey’s case represented an “extreme malfunction” of the Wisconsin legal system.
“Dean and I are very gratified that a federal judge has found Brendan Dassey’s statements to law enforcement were coerced and involuntary. The court found ‘the investigators’ actions amounted to deceptive interrogation tactics,'” Buting said in a statement to Bustle.
Strang wrote in a statement to the Huffington Post, “[Dassey’s] statements were also wholly unreliable and flatly wrong on essential details, which is one of the obvious risks of coercing a statement from someone in custody. Our federal courts are often the last protectors of our liberties and justice. We are thankful and proud that a federal court fulfilled its fundamental role for Brendan Dassey today. In doing so, this federal court served all Americans.”
Buting added, “The well reasoned decision is further evidence that, in the state of Wisconsin, it falls to the federal courts to protect the liberties and justice of all Americans. The federal court concluded that Dassey’s case was an example of ‘an extreme malfunction in the state criminal justice system’ that federal habeas corpus exists to correct.”
The U.S. District Court in Milwaukee ordered Dassey to be released from jail within 90 days, by which time prosecutors must decide whether to retry the now-26-year-old. Avery remains behind bars serving a life sentence for the 2005 murder of Teresa Halbach.
Filmmakers have begun work on documenting the post-conviction process with exclusive access to defense teams. Watch here.