U.S. Seventh Circuit - The FindLaw 7th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries Blog

Court to Rehear 'Making a Murderer' Case

Call it 'Making a Murderer -- the Sequel.'

That's because Brendan Dassey, a convicted murderer featured in the Netflix documentary, will get another chance at infamy or redemption. The U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals has agreed to rehear a decision that he involuntarily confessed to raping and killing Teresa Halbach at a salvage yard in 2005.

Dassey told investigators that he and his uncle Stephen Avery committed the crimes. In the documentary, filmmakers told the story about how Avery was wrongfully convicted and spent 18 years in prison.

Involuntary Confession

Avery was arrested after police found the woman's bone fragments, teeth, hair and blood in his house, car and fire pit at the yard. Dassey, who was 16 at the time of the murder, then confessed in a series of police interviews.

But a three-judge panel affirmed a magistrate judge's decision overturning the conviction in Dassey v. Dittman in June. The court said police, through deceptive questioning, had procured an involuntary confession.

The judges said police extracted details of the crimes from Dassey over several interviews that lasted hours. The magistrate said Dassey's attorney also abandoned him by making damaging comments to the media.

"It is one thing for an attorney to point out to a client how deep of a hole the client is in," Judge William E. Duffin said. "But to assist the prosecution in digging that hole deeper is an affront to the principles of justice that underlie a defense attorney's vital role in the adversarial system."

In the Balance

Eugene Volokh, who teaches at UCLA School of Law, said the 7th Circuit en banc panel will have six Republican judges and three Democrat-appointees. However, he wrote for the Washington Post, their ideology "isn't particularly telling here."

"Likewise, the panel will be four women and five men, but before people assume that female judges are more inclined to affirm a conviction of a man who is being prosecuted for raping and killing a woman, they should note that the two women on the panel voted to reverse the conviction and the one man voted to uphold it," he said.

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