Appeals Court Lets Dassey Conviction Stand


A federal appeals court on Friday upheld the murder conviction of a Wisconsin man in a case chronicled in the television documentary "Making of a Murderer", overturning a lower court judge who had tossed out the original guilty verdict.

The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago met in September to consider whether Brendan Dassey, now aged 28 but was aged 16 at the time of his conviction, was properly interviewed by police or forced into confessing.

"The state courts' finding that Dassey's confession was voluntary was not beyond fair debate, but we conclude it was reasonable", the ruling said.

Dassey was sentenced to life in prison in 2007 after telling detectives he helped his uncle, Steven Avery, rape and kill photographer Teresa Halbach.

In 2016, U.S. Magistrate Judge William Duffin in Milwaukee overturned the guilty verdict against Dassey, ruling that the conviction was coerced.

A three-judge panel from the Seventh Circuit upheld the magistrate's ruling in June - but the state asked for a review, leading to Friday's decision. Dassey was featured in the Netflix series "Making a Murderer".

It raised questions about the U.S. legal system and prompted many viewers to believe Dassey and Avery were wrongly convicted.

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But dissenting Judge Ilana Rovner, who considered Dassey an "intellectually impaired juvenile" at the time of his questioning, said he was coerced. She called the fact that an "impaired teenager has been sentenced to life in prison" a "profound miscarriage of justice" in her dissent.

Dassey's lawyers, Laura Nirider and Steven Drizin, issued a statement saying they were disappointed by the reversal and planned to appeal to the US Supreme Court.

State attorneys argued that the earlier ruling challenged long-accepted police interrogation tactics.

Brendan Dassey is pictured in this undated booking photo. That led to Friday's ruling.

Authorities who worked on the cases said the series was biased. "Dassey will spend the rest of his life in prison because of the injustice this court has made a decision to leave unredressed".

Avery, 54, is serving a life sentence at a Wisconsin prison. He said he was framed and is seeking a new trial.