An attorney representing Brendan Dassey, the young man featured in Netflix’s “Making a Murderer” documentary series, claims Dassey’s former attorney “served Brendan up on a silver platter to the prosecution.”
“Brendan’s original attorney was desperate to get Brendan to plead guilty and testify against his uncle Steven Avery,” said attorney Steven Drizin with Northwestern University's Center for Wrongful Convictions of Youth.
Drizin claimed Len Kachinsky conspired with a defense investigator and with the prosecution in the case, ultimately allowing investigators to interrogate Dassey without a lawyer present.
“That is something I have never seen in 30 years as a lawyer, that kind of lawyering,” Drizin said.
Kachinsky has admitted his error in not being present when Dassey was interviewed by his investigator in May 2006, but told Wisconsin’s Post-Crescent that it had no bearing on the guilty verdict against Dassey because it was never introduced at trial.
Drizin, however, has argued that evidence gathered in the interviews was used during the trial, including a phone call Dassey made as a result of the interrogation.
Drizin’s claim is one of many cited in a Habeas petition currently pending in Wisconsin federal court. The petition seeks to get Dassey’s conviction vacated and a new trial ordered. A decision on the petition could come “anytime,” Drizin said.
Dassey’s case is one of two followed in the popular “Making a Murderer” series, which depicts the story of Dassey’s uncle, Steven Avery. Dassey and Avery are currently serving life sentences for the 2005 murder of 25-year-old photographer of Teresa Halbach.
Dassey was arrested at the age of 16 in connection with case, but his attorneys maintain his confession was coerced.
“To me, this case is a classic example of how not to interrogate juvenile suspects and the tactics that were used during Brendan’s interrogation are a recipe for false confessions,” he said.
In a brief filed last year, the state argued Dassey failed to show that the appeals court’s decision was unreasonable.
“[Investigators] merely stated, in calm tones, that they ‘already knew’ what happened and allowed Dassey to confess that he had raped Halbach, and was involved in her murder,” the brief reads. “Dassey’s confession was not coerced, and the state court’s decision on Dassey’s voluntariness claim did not involve an unreasonable application of clearly established Federal law.”
Former Calamut County District Attorney Ken Kratz, who prosecuted Dassey and Avery, recently told People magazine that he has "a great bit of sympathy" for Dassey, who he said "never would have been involved in this except for his uncle."
Dassey would have been out sooner if he had taken a plea bargain, Kratz said.
Drizin said he was surprised by the reactions many have had to the “Making a Murderer” series.
“When these two filmmakers approached us, they had already had hundreds of hours of footage from the Avery trial and that was at least five or six years ago so I wasn’t even sure that the film was going to be made,” Drizin said. “When I saw it I was just amazed at what a great job they did.”
Drizin said that although he doesn’t believe the documentary will have an impact on the federal court’s decision, the series gives Dassey’s case context.
“When Brendan was convicted, way back when, he and his uncle were evil incarnate,” Drizin said. “They were two of the most hated people in the state of Wisconsin and now they’re not, especially Brendan. The amount of support that we have received from people all over the country who are outraged at what happened to him creates a different context. Will that affect a federal judge? Probably not, but we’re in a different context now and context makes a difference.”
As for Dassey, Drizin said he isn’t allowed to watch the documentary series, but has received a lot of support since the show’s release.
“He has to hope that one day he will get out, that he’ll get out in time that he can have a family, that he can live out the dreams that he had before he got embroiled in this mess,” Drizin said.