Published: Wed, June 28, 2017
U.S. | By Eddie Scott

Seventh Circuit Court affirms lower court decision to overturn Dassey's conviction

Seventh Circuit Court affirms lower court decision to overturn Dassey's conviction

Dassey's lawyers, Professors Steven Drizin and Laura Nirider of the Centre on Wrongful Convictions of Youth, celebrated the judges' majority decision. The Chicago-based 7th Circuit panel upheld a ruling that overturned his conviction previous year in the case made famous by Netflix's Making a Murderer.

In November of a year ago, a Milwaukee judge finally recognized that and chose to overturn Dassey's conviction, granting him supervised release from prison while the state decided it it wanted to pursue a retrial. The US Court of Appeals in Chicago today ruled that his confession that was used to find him guilty of assisting his uncle, Steven Avery, to kill a young woman in 2005 was coerced.

Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel has indicated he plans to ask the full 7th Circuit Court of Appeals to review Thursday's decision by a panel of three of its judges that called for Dassey to either be retried or freed. Even after the district court ordered his release in November, he has waited behind bars for seven additional months while the State pursued its appeal to this Court.

"[We] hope that today's erroneous decision will be reversed", a spokesman for the state's department of justice told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. His wavering story about his alleged involvement convinced many "Making a Murderer" viewers that he was improperly influenced by investigators. The popular Netflix docu-series, Making a Murderer, showed portions of Dassey's interview with Wisconsin detectives, which caused a worldwide uproar after viewers thought the then-16-year-old was fed information by authorities and in turn, coerced into falsely confessing that he raped Halbach and helped his uncle dispose of her body. Avery was also sentenced to life imprisonment in a separate trial. His confession to police, which was central to a Netflix documentary, was found to be coerced.

One judge on the panel dissented, saying that while there were some "factors" supporting the view that the confession was not voluntary, others support the view that "overall, the confession was voluntary".

"The majority's decision breaks new ground and poses troubling questions for police and prosecutors", Hamilton wrote. Now it seems Dassey's freedom is closer than ever. The follow-up episodes of the documentary series will follow Steven Avery's highly controversial case with his new legal representation as they challenge his conviction.

The death of Halbach and the conviction of Avery and Dassey placed Manitowoc County in the national spotlight. "The pattern of questions demonstrates that the message the investigators conveyed is that the "truth" was what they wanted to hear", reads the decision.

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