Brendan Dassey is one of the main subjects of the Netflix documentary series Making a Murderer, which follows the controversial case of his uncle Steven Avery and his conviction for the murder of Teresa Halbach in 2005. Dassey, who was 16 years old at the time of his arrest, was also convicted of first-degree homicide, mutilation of a corpse, and second-degree sexual assault in 2007, based on a confession that he later recanted. Dassey and Avery have maintained their innocence and have been fighting for their freedom ever since. But what is the latest update on Brendan Dassey’s case in 2022? Here are some key facts you need to know.
Dassey is still serving his life sentence at Oshkosh Correctional Institution
As of 2022, Brendan Dassey is still serving his life sentence at Oshkosh Correctional Institution, a correctional facility in Wisconsin, USA. He is not eligible for parole until 2048, when he will be nearly 60 years old. Dassey has been incarcerated since he was a teenager in his final year of high school. In his letter to Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers in 2019, he said he aspires to work in the video games industry if and when he is released from prison. However, Evers has so far rejected Dassey’s request for a pardon, despite a huge amount of backing from celebrities, activists, and the public.
Dassey’s confession was ruled involuntary by a federal court, but the decision was overturned by an appeals court
One of the most controversial aspects of Dassey’s case is his confession, which was obtained by the police after four interrogations in 48 hours, without a lawyer or a parent present. Dassey, who has a low IQ and cognitive disabilities, was coerced into confessing to the murder by the police, who used deceptive and suggestive tactics, such as promising him leniency, feeding him details of the crime, and manipulating his emotions. Dassey’s lawyers have argued that his confession was involuntary, unreliable, and in violation of his constitutional rights.
In 2016, a federal court in Wisconsin agreed with Dassey’s lawyers and granted his petition for a writ of habeas corpus, which means that he should be released from prison unless the state retries him or appeals the decision. The court found that Dassey’s confession was involuntary and that his trial counsel was ineffective for failing to challenge it. The court also criticized the state courts for ignoring the “significant doubts as to the reliability of Dassey’s confession” and for applying an unreasonable legal standard to evaluate its voluntariness.
However, the state appealed the decision, and in 2017, a panel of the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the lower court’s ruling by a 2-1 vote. The state then requested a rehearing by the full court, which was granted, and in 2018, the full court reversed the panel’s decision by a 4-3 vote. The majority of the court held that Dassey’s confession was voluntary and that the state courts did not unreasonably apply the law. The dissenting judges disagreed and accused the majority of ignoring the “common sense reality” of Dassey’s situation and the “mountain of evidence” that his confession was coerced.
Dassey’s lawyers then petitioned the Supreme Court of the United States to review the case, but the Supreme Court denied the petition in 2018, without giving any explanation. This means that the appeals court’s decision stands and that Dassey remains in prison.
Dassey’s lawyers are still pursuing other legal avenues to prove his innocence
Despite the setbacks, Dassey’s lawyers have not given up on his case and are still pursuing other legal avenues to prove his innocence. One of his lawyers, Laura Nirider, who is also a co-director of the Center on Wrongful Convictions of Youth at Northwestern University, said in a statement in 2018 that “we will continue to fight to free Brendan Dassey”. Nirider also said that “Brendan was a sixteen-year old with intellectual and social disabilities when he confessed to a crime he did not commit. The video of Brendan’s interrogation shows a confused boy who was manipulated by experienced police officers into accepting their story of how the murder of Teresa Halbach happened”.
One of the strategies that Dassey’s lawyers are pursuing is to seek a new trial based on newly discovered evidence that could implicate another suspect in the murder. In 2020, Steven Avery’s lawyer, Kathleen Zellner, who is also leading Avery’s fight for freedom, filed a motion in Wisconsin claiming that she had a new witness who saw Bobby Dassey, Brendan’s older brother, driving Halbach’s car with another person on the night of the murder. Bobby Dassey was a key witness for the prosecution at both Avery’s and Brendan’s trials, and he testified that he saw Halbach walking towards Avery’s trailer on the day she disappeared. Zellner believes that Bobby Dassey was involved in the murder and that he lied to frame Avery and Brendan.
Zellner’s motion also included an affidavit from a tow truck driver named Thomas Buresh, who said that he saw Bobby Dassey driving Halbach’s car in the area of the Avery Salvage Yard and the Radandt gravel pits, where some of Halbach’s remains were found. Buresh said that he came forward after watching Making a Murderer and recognizing Bobby Dassey as the driver of the car. Zellner said that Buresh’s testimony corroborates the affidavit of another witness, Thomas Sowinski, who also claimed to have seen Bobby Dassey driving Halbach’s car with another person on the same night. Zellner said that these witnesses are “very important in adding to the growing evidence of Bobby Dassey’s involvement in the Halbach murder”.
Zellner’s motion also argued that the state violated Avery’s right to due process by withholding evidence that could have impeached Bobby Dassey’s credibility, such as a forensic report that showed that Bobby Dassey had violent and disturbing images of women, torture, and death on his computer. Zellner said that this evidence could have been used to challenge Bobby Dassey’s motive, opportunity, and means to commit the murder, and to support the defense theory that Halbach was killed by someone other than Avery or Brendan.
Zellner’s motion is still pending before the Wisconsin court, and it is unclear how it will affect Brendan Dassey’s case. However, Nirider has expressed her support for Zellner’s efforts and said that she hopes that the new evidence will lead to a new trial for both Avery and Brendan.
Dassey’s case has sparked a global movement for justice and reform
Brendan Dassey’s case has not only captured the attention of millions of viewers around the world, but also sparked a global movement for justice and reform. Dassey’s supporters have launched various campaigns and petitions to demand his release and to raise awareness about the issues of false confessions, juvenile justice, and wrongful convictions. Some of the organizations and initiatives that have been involved in Dassey’s case include the Innocence Project, the Center on Wrongful Convictions of Youth, the Juvenile Law Center, the International Association of Chiefs of Police, the United Nations, and the European Parliament.
Dassey’s case has also inspired many celebrities, such as Kim Kardashian West, Alec Baldwin, Ricky Gervais, and Stephen Colbert, to speak out on his behalf and to advocate for criminal justice reform. In 2019, Kim Kardashian West tweeted to Governor Evers and urged him to read Dassey’s letter requesting a pardon1. She also met with Nirider and Dassey’s half-brother, Brad Dassey, to discuss the case and to offer her support.
Dassey’s case has also influenced the legal and academic communities, as many lawyers, scholars, and students have studied his case and written articles, books, and papers about it. Some of the publications that have featured Dassey’s case include the Harvard Law Review, the Yale Law Journal, the Northwestern University Law Review, and the Wisconsin Law Review. Dassey’s case has also been taught in law schools, such as Harvard, Yale, Stanford, and Oxford, and in high schools and colleges, such as the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the University of Chicago, and the University of Notre Dame.
Dassey’s case has also been the subject of several documentaries, podcasts, and films, such as Making a Murderer, Convicting a Murderer, Dream/Killer, The Confession Tapes, and The Innocent Man. Dassey’s case has also been referenced in popular culture, such as in the TV shows South Park, The Simpsons, and Family Guy, and in the songs “Brendan Dassey” by The Lonely Island and “False Confessions” by Tom Morello.
Dassey’s case has thus become a symbol of the need for justice and reform in the criminal justice system, especially for juveniles and people with disabilities who are vulnerable to coercion and manipulation by the police. Dassey’s case has also shown the power of the media and the public to expose the flaws and failures of the system.