NOTE: Attorneys for Dassey are expected to speak live in Madison about the clemency effort. Watch live in the player above.
Attorneys for "Making a Murderer" subject Brendan Dassey have filed a petition for clemency in his case, asking the governor of Wisconsin to pardon or commute his sentence "on the basis of actual innocence and his extreme sentence."
(Read the full petition below)
Dassey is currently serving a life sentence after being convicted of first-degree homicide, second-degree sexual assault and mutilation of a corpse following the 2005 murder of photographer Teresa Halbach. His uncle, Steven Avery, is also serving a life sentence for the crime.
To Steven’s followers: Do not be discouraged by recent events. We have some very credible tips and when verified we will send to LE. No more publicity stunts!! No more deposit slips!!!#MakingaMurderer #TruthWins— Kathleen Zellner (@ZellnerLaw) September 25, 2019
Attorneys Laura Nirider and Steven Drizin with the Center on Wrongful Convictions at Northwestern University argued Dassey was a 16-year-old high school "special education student with no criminal history" at the time of his confession to the crime. He has an IQ of 74, and a speech-language function in the bottom percentile, they said.
"After undergoing four police interrogations in 48 hours, he found himself charged with involvement in one of the highest-profile homicides in Wisconsin history – and, subsequently, sentenced to life in prison – based on a videotaped confession about which state and federal judges, national police authorities, prosecutorial groups, and psychological experts have since expressed the gravest doubts," they wrote in their petition. "Indeed, his confession is disproven by the physical evidence found at the crime scene, including DNA. The confession is also marked by Brendan’s utter inability to describe accurately the method by which Ms. Halbach had been killed until he was told by police that she had been shot in the head. And it is punctuated by Brendan’s staggeringly guileless requests to go back to school even after agreeing to confess to murder."
The petition to Gov. Tony Evers is the latest attempt at clearing Dassey in the case, which was profiled on the Netflix docu-series "Making a Murderer."
The series followed Avery and Dassey as they try to overturn their convictions. Avery had argued that his conviction was based on planted evidence and false testimony.
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The series spawned conjecture about the pair's innocence, but those who worked on the cases accused the filmmakers of leaving out key pieces of evidence and presenting a biased view of what happened.
Previously, a federal judge in Milwaukee overturned Dassey's conviction, but several legal proceedings later, an appeals court kept Dassey behind bars and the Supreme Court declined to weigh in on the controversial case.
"Like no other case in this State, and indeed few around the globe, the case of Brendan Dassey cries out for relief. Seeking clemency from the Governor is now one of the last remaining legal options available to him," the 26-page petition filed Wednesday reads.
In a press conference Wednesday, attorneys, joined by a large group of experts and advocates, described the many issues they saw in Dassey's confession.
"From the first interrogation through the last these investigators told Brendan they were not cops - they were more like father figures or friends," Drizin said. "They threatened him by telling him that the district attorney’s office was ready to charge him with a crime or a cover-up of a crime."
They argued the confession was coerced.
"He actually believed that he would be set free if he just told police what they wanted to hear," Drizin said, adding "true confessors don’t need help with their narratives."
Earlier this year, Avery won a motion to appeal his case and have it re-examined by a Wisconsin court.
Since then, a reward has been offered for information on the case and a convicted murderer behind bars wrote a handwritten confession (read it here) that attorneys believe was simply an attempt to get money.
Both Avery and Dassey are still fighting for freedom.