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

Court: Brendan Dassey's 'Making a Murderer' Confession Was Voluntary

If the U.S.Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals were a trial court, Brendan Dassey would be a free man now.

The appeals court split over the case, voting 4-3 that Dassey's murder confession was voluntary. The dissent said the 16-year-old's confession came through a "perfect storm" of interrogations.

"No reasonable state court, knowing what we now know about coercive interrogation techniques and viewing Dassey's interrogation in light of his age, intellectual deficits, and manipulability, could possibly have concluded that Dassey's confession was voluntarily given," Judge Illena Rovner wrote in Dassey v. Dittmann.

"Making a Murderer"

Dassey became nationally infamous through a Netflix documentary series, "Making a Murderer." He was convicted of the rape and killing of a 25-year-old photographer.

Teresa Halback had disappeared after going to Steven Avery's garage in 2005. Avery, Dassey's uncle, was convicted of the rape and murder after police found blood, bone fragments, teeth and hair in his garage, car, and a nearby fire pit.

Dassey confessed his part after hours of questioning without a parent or an attorney present. On appeal, the main issue was whether his confession was voluntary.

A Seventh Circuit panel said it was not in a 2-1 decision in June. But en banc panel reversed that decision, saying many factors showed Dassey willingly confessed.

Dassey's Confession

In his first interview with police, Dassey said he saw Halbach taking photos at the yard. When police interviewed him again, Dassey said he helped his uncle with a bonfire and saw parts of the body in the fire.

When he was interviewed again, Dassey said he found the photographer dead in her car. He helped his uncle take the body to the bonfire. Later, he said his uncle handcuffed the woman to the bed and they raped her.

"Dassey provided many of the most damning details himself in response to open-ended questions," Judge David Hamilton wrote for the majority.

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