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

Judge Denies New Evidence Motion for 'Making a Murderer' Defendant

Convicted murderer Steven Avery became famous after the Netflix documentary about his case, "Making a Murderer."

The publicity gained some sympathy for his nephew and co-defendant Brendan Dassey, who confessed to participating in the murder of Teresa Halbach. Avery, however, is a different story.

He raped and killed the woman, then burned her body in a fire pit. Denying a motion that could have set up another appeal, a judge cut him off.

"Same Evidence"

Avery's attorneys had asked the Sheboygan County Circuit Court judge to supplement the record with a CD they claimed contained exculpatory evidence. They said the state should have disclosed the disc before trial, but they only received it in April.

Judge Angela Sutkiewicz said it was a non-issue because the CD contained the same information that prosecutors had provided earlier. The state did not suppress any material evidence, she said.

"In light of all the evidence submitted, it is clear that the defense was in possession of the same evidence as the prosecution prior to trial," Sutkiewicz wrote.

Kathleen Zellner, representing Avery, said the decision contained "numerous factual errors, misapplies the law and was filed two days after the due date set by the court." Alec J. Hanna, a spokesman for the state department of justice, said it was a "frivolous motion."

Court of Last Resort

Both Avery and Dassey have challenged their convictions, but failed. In June, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear Dassey's case.

He had a chance after the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals split 4-3 that his confession was voluntary. The dissent said the 6-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.

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