Lawyers for a Wisconsin inmate featured in the “Making a Murderer” series on Netflix asked the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday to review a federal appeals court decision that held his confession was voluntary.
Brendan Dassey’s legal team told the high court in their petition that the case raises crucial issues that extend far beyond Dassey’s case alone and that long have divided state and federal courts.
Dassey’s lawyers claim investigators took advantage of his youth and intellectual and social disabilities to coerce him into falsely confessing that he helped his uncle, Steven Avery, rape and kill photographer Teresa Halbach in 2005 in the Avery family’s junk yard in Manitowoc County. Dassey was 16 at the time. He was sentenced to life in prison in 2007.
“Too many courts around the country, for many years, have been misapplying or even ignoring the Supreme Court’s instructions that confessions from mentally impaired kids like Brendan Dassey must be examined with the greatest care — and that interrogation tactics which may not be coercive when applied to an adult can overwhelm children and the mentally impaired,” his attorney, Steven Drizin, said in a statement.
A federal court in Wisconsin overturned Dassey’s conviction in 2016, and a three-judge panel of the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed that decision last June. While the full 7th Circuit voted 4-3 to reverse the panel’s decision to grant him a new trial, one dissenting judge called the case “a profound miscarriage of justice.”
The legal odds remain high against Dassey. The U.S. Supreme Court grants only a tiny fraction of the petitions for review that it receives.
Avery, who insists police framed him, is appealing his conviction in Wisconsin state courts.