A court ruled on Friday, Dec. 8, that the confession given by Brendan Dassey in the 2005 slaying of Teresa Halbach — made famous by the Netflix series Making a Murderer — should not be thrown out, meaning his life sentence will remain in effect. The motion, which was made by the US Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in a 4-3 decision, goes against a federal judge's previous ruling.
Shortly after Halbach's death, Dassey, who was 16 at the time, told authorities he assisted his uncle, Steven Avery, in raping and killing the photographer. Her charred remains were discovered on the family's property in Wisconsin's Manitowoc County. He later recanted the confession, with lawyers claiming the statement was coerced. They described Dassey's IQ as being in the "low to borderline" range.
A photo of Brendan Dassey’s uncle, Steven Avery.
Following the court's decision, Judge David Hamilton, who voted for the majority opinion, wrote, "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. Dassey provided many of the most damning details himself in response to open-ended questions."
However, dissenting Judge Ilana Rovner argued, "What occurred here was the interrogation of an intellectually impaired juvenile. Dassey was subjected to myriad psychologically coercive techniques but the state court did not review his interrogation with the special care required by Supreme Court precedent. His confession was not voluntary and his conviction should not stand, and yet an impaired teenager has been sentenced to life in prison."
Dassey's lawyers, Laura Nirider and Steven Drizin, said they planned to appeal to the US Supreme Court. Meanwhile, Steven Avery — who remains in prison for Halbach's murder — was denied a new trial in October.