‘Making A Murderer’ Subject Freed By Judge

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Kevin Daley Supreme Court correspondent
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A federal judge in Wisconsin has ordered the release of Brendan Dassey, a subject of the hit Netflix documentary “Making a Murderer,” after his conviction for the 2005 murder of Teresa Halbach was vacated in August.

Dassey’s uncle, Steven Avery, was “Making a Murderer’s” primary subject. Avery was originally convicted of the sexual assault of Penny Ann Beernsten, a Wisconsin woman assaulted while running along the Lake Michigan shoreline in 1985. DNA evidence later exonerated him of the offense. Approximately two years after his release, Avery and his nephew, Dassey, were arrested and convicted of Halbach’s murder — her charred remains were found by police in the Avery family salvage yard. The pair was sentenced to a life term in prison. The crime was examined at length in the Netflix series.

A federal judge in Wisconsin vacated Dassey’s conviction, finding his confession to the crime was coerced and violative of the Fifth and 14th Amendments. Video of an interrogation conducted by two police officers, during which time the confession occurred, indicate the officers used aggressive and coercive tactics resulting in Dassey’s gradual acquiescence. The officers repeatedly made false promises to Dassey and insisted that they already had established what occurred during the crime. (RELATED: Adnan Syed Of ‘Serial’ Fame Gets New Trial)

The court considered these facts in light of other factors, including the absence of effective counsel and Dassey’s intellectual deficits.

U.S. District Court Judge William Duffin ordered Dassey’s release Monday afternoon. Dassey must furnish the court with the address where he will be staying, and refrain from any contact with Avery and the Halbach family.

Prosecutors still maintain that Dassey participated in the crime and have appealed Duffin’s ruling. He will remain free while the appeal is pending, but may be taken back into custody at a future time.

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