Wisconsin attorneys asked a federal appeals court Monday to keep an inmate featured in the Netxflix series “Making a Murderer” behind bars while they fight a second ruling overturning his conviction.
The state Department of Justice’s filing argues Brendan Dassey should remain in prison because his case is far from settled. The agency will appeal the ruling to the full 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals within the next two weeks, has the right to seek review in the U.S. Supreme Court or could retry him, the filing said. A Wisconsin jury also found Dassey guilty of “heinous crimes,” which points to keeping him locked up, the filing added.
“Dassey’s release pending full resolution of this appeal would harm the public interest, as he has been convicted of rape, murder, and mutilation of a corpse, thereby establishing his dangerousness to the public,” the filing said.
Dassey’s attorneys, Laura Nirider and Robert Dvorek, didn’t immediately respond to email messages seeking comment.
Dassey told detectives that he helped his uncle, Steven Avery, rape and kill photographer Teresa Halbach at the Avery family’s salvage yard in eastern Wisconsin’s Manitowoc County on Halloween 2005. A jury in 2007 convicted him of first-degree intentional homicide, mutilating a corpse and second-degree sexual assault. He was sentenced to life. Avery was sentenced to life as well in a separate trial.
A federal magistrate judge overturned Dassey’s conviction in August 2016, finding his confession was coerced. Investigators took advantage of his below-average intelligence and his age — he was 16 when Halbach died — to obtain his statements, the judge found.
He has remained behind bars while the state Department of Justice appealed. A three-judge panel from the 7th Circuit ruled 2-1 Thursday that the confession was indeed coerced.
Dassey’s attorneys asked the court to release him immediately. They contend that he’s now 27 and keeping him locked up while state attorneys continue to appeal could cost him more months or even years.
Dassey and Avery have long maintained police framed them. Their cases burst into the national consciousness after the “Making a Murderer” series debuted in December 2015. The filmmakers cast doubt on the legal process in the cases, sparking widespread speculation about their innocence. Both men have accumulated thousands of fans on social media.
Authorities who worked the cases insist the documentary was biased. Prosecutor Ken Kratz wrote in his book “Avery” that Dassey was “a shuffling, mumbling young man with bad skin and broken-bowl haircut” who could have rescued Halbach but instead involved himself in her rape and murder. Avery, he wrote, is “by any measure of the evidence, stone guilty.”
Avery is pursuing his own appeal.