Jump to content

Brendan Dassey

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Brendan Dassey
Brendan Ray Dassey

(1989-10-19) October 19, 1989 (age 34)
Criminal statusIncarcerated at Oshkosh Correctional Institution
RelativesSteven Avery (uncle)
Criminal penaltyLife in prison with the possibility of parole in 2048

Brendan Ray Dassey (born October 19, 1989) is an American convicted murderer from Manitowoc County, Wisconsin, who at 16 confessed to being a party to first-degree murder, mutilation of a corpse, and second-degree sexual assault. He was sentenced to life in prison with the earliest possibility of parole in 2048.[1] His videotaped interrogation and confession, which he recanted at trial,[2] substantially contributed to his conviction. Parts were shown, but much was left out, in the Netflix documentary series Making a Murderer (2015). The series examined the 2005–2007 investigation, prosecution, and trials of Dassey and his uncle, Steven Avery, both of whom were convicted of murdering the photographer Teresa Halbach on October 31, 2005.

After his conviction, Dassey's case was taken by the Center on Wrongful Convictions of Youth. In August 2016, a federal magistrate judge ruled that Dassey's confession had been coerced and overturned his conviction and ordered him released, which was delayed during appeal. In June 2017, a divided panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit affirmed the magistrate judge's order overturning Dassey's conviction. In December 2017, the full en banc Seventh Circuit upheld Dassey's conviction by a vote of 4–3, with the majority finding that the police had properly obtained Dassey's confession.

Early life[edit]

Brendan Ray Dassey was born to Barbara and Peter Dassey in Manitowoc County, Wisconsin. He has three brothers (Bryan, Bobby, and Blaine) and a half-brother (Brad).[3][4]

At the time of his indictment, Dassey was a 16-year-old sophomore at Mishicot High School.[5] With an IQ in the borderline deficiency range, he was enrolled in special education classes.[6] Dassey was described as a quiet, introverted[7] young man with an interest in WWE (he was reportedly upset when he missed WrestleMania 22[8]), animals,[9] and video games.[10] Before this case, he had no involvement with the criminal justice system.

Murder of Teresa Halbach[edit]

Photographer Teresa Halbach, born March 22, 1980, in Kaukauna, Wisconsin,[11] was reported missing by her parents on November 3, 2005.[12] Halbach, who had not been seen since October 31, resided next door to her parents in Calumet County.[13] Halbach was known to have visited the Avery Salvage Yard in Manitowoc County on October 31, 2005.

On November 10, 2005, following the discovery of her Toyota RAV4 vehicle partially concealed on the Avery property, Calumet County Sheriff Jerry Pagel conducted a search and found the charred remains of Halbach. Her cell phone, license plates and car key were also recovered. On November 15, after Steven Avery's blood was found in her vehicle, Avery was charged with the kidnapping and murder of Halbach, mutilation of a corpse, and illegal possession of a firearm.

During the investigation, Dassey, Avery's alibi, underwent a series of interrogations without counsel or parent present, although Dassey and his mother consented to the interrogations, in which investigators made false promises to Dassey using approved interrogation techniques.[14][15] While being interrogated, Dassey confessed in detail to being a co-conspirator in the rape and murder of Halbach and the mutilation of her corpse.[15] His confession was later described as "clearly involuntary in a constitutional sense" by a US magistrate judge whose opinion was overturned by an appellate court. The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the appellate court by refusing to hear the case.[16]

He was arrested and charged on March 1, 2006, with being party to a first-degree homicide, sexual assault, and mutilation of a corpse. The special prosecutor Ken Kratz held a major press conference about the two cases, discussing the charges against Avery and Dassey, and reading verbatim elements of Dassey's confession. It was widely covered by TV and newspapers.

Dassey later recanted his confession in a letter to the trial judge. He said he got most of his ideas from a book.[17]


Dassey was interrogated on four occasions over a 48-hour period, including three times in a 24-hour time frame with no legal representative, parent, or other adult present. Initially interviewed on November 6 at the family cabin in Crivitz, Dassey was interrogated via the Reid technique,[18] which was developed to permit and encourage law enforcement officers to use tactics that pressure suspects to confess.[19] Dassey had been clinically evaluated as being highly suggestible,[20] which makes a suspect more compliant and can ultimately lead to improper interrogation outcomes such as false confessions.[21]

Dassey recanted his confession and informed his defense counsel. He later charged that his first defense counsel collaborated with the prosecution to get Dassey to plead guilty in order to testify against Avery. The defense counsel was replaced. The Netflix series Making a Murderer (2015), which chronicles the trials of Dassey and Avery, has generated global dialogue centered around wrongful convictions, coerced confessions, interrogation of minors, and criminal justice reform.[22]


Dassey's first appointed lawyer, Len Kachinsky, was removed by the court on August 26, 2006, due to his decision not to appear with Brendan during the May 13 interrogation.[5][7] He was replaced by two public defenders.

The Dassey trial began on April 16, 2007, with a jury from Dane County, Wisconsin.[23][24] The trial lasted nine days, with a verdict delivered on April 25, 2007.

The jury deliberated for four hours, finding Dassey guilty of first-degree intentional homicide, rape and mutilation of a corpse.[25] Though only 17 years old at the time, Dassey was tried and sentenced as an adult, and his intellectual limitations were ruled irrelevant.[26] He was sentenced to life in prison with eligibility for parole in 2048 and incarcerated at the Columbia Correctional Institution in Portage, Wisconsin.[27]

Public response and appeals[edit]

In January 2010, Dassey's attorneys entered a motion for retrial, which was denied in December by Judge Fox. Fox's ruling was affirmed by the Wisconsin Court of Appeals in January 2013, and the Wisconsin Supreme Court declined to review it.[28]

The release of Making a Murderer in December 2015 generated a wide, international audience and was met with significant media attention. There were numerous discussions regarding the prosecution of criminal cases.[29] Due to the unprecedented response to the Netflix docu-series, by July 2016, Making a Murderer 2 was in production, focusing on the post-conviction process for Dassey and his family.[30] His conviction has been appealed through the state court system and a petition for habeas corpus was filed in federal court. Because of the nature of Dassey's interrogations, there have been calls for the exoneration of Dassey with petitions for his freedom and the implementation of the "Juvenile Interrogation Protection Law in Wisconsin", which would prohibit police from questioning minors without a lawyer present.[31]

In December 2015, petitions were submitted for the investigation of the police officers who interrogated Dassey,[32] and January 2016, on the federal government's We the People website.[33] Rallies in support of the exoneration of Dassey were held in the United States,[34] London,[35] Manchester, Melbourne, Sydney, and Perth.[34] Supporters have been communicating with him via letters and contributing to his prison commissary.[36]

Dassey is now represented by Steven Drizin and Laura Nirider, both professors at Northwestern University's Center on Wrongful Convictions of Youth and experts in false confessions from juvenile suspects. In December 2015, Dassey's attorneys filed a writ of habeas corpus in federal district court for release or retrial, citing constitutional rights violations due to ineffective assistance of counsel and a coerced confession.[37][38]

In August 2016, United States magistrate judge William E. Duffin ruled that Dassey's confession had been coerced, and was therefore involuntary and unconstitutional, and ordered him released.[39][40][41] In November, the Wisconsin Justice Department appealed Duffin's decision to the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, which blocked Dassey's release pending a hearing.[42]

In June 2017, a three-judge panel of the Seventh Circuit upheld the magistrate judge's decision to overturn Dassey's conviction.[43] Judge Ilana Rovner, joined by Judge Ann Claire Williams, affirmed, over the dissent of Judge David Hamilton.[44][45] On July 5, the Wisconsin Department of Justice submitted a petition requesting a rehearing en banc—by the entire 7th Circuit panel.[46] On August 4, 2017, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals granted the State of Wisconsin's request for an en banc hearing with oral arguments set for September 26 in Chicago before a full panel of sitting judges.[47]

On December 8, 2017, the full en banc Seventh Circuit upheld Dassey's conviction by a vote of 4–3, with the majority finding that the police had properly obtained Dassey's confession. Circuit Judges Joel Flaum and Amy Coney Barrett (who joined the court after argument in the case had been heard) recused themselves from the case and did not participate in the consideration or decision.[48][49][50] Judge Hamilton's majority opinion was joined by Judges Frank H. Easterbrook, Michael Stephen Kanne, and Diane S. Sykes. Then-Chief Judge Diane Wood and Judge Rovner both wrote dissents, joined by Judge Williams.[51]

On February 20, 2018, Dassey's legal team, including former U.S. Solicitor General Seth P. Waxman, filed a petition for a writ of certiorari to the United States Supreme Court. The case was assigned case number 17-1172.[52] Justices were scheduled to discuss the case in conference to determine if they would hear the case on June 14, 2018, but the case was removed from the schedule without an explanation or a rescheduling order on the morning of the conference.[53] On June 25, 2018, certiorari was denied.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "A Timeline of events in the Brendan Dassey case". Archived from the original on September 24, 2016. Retrieved September 12, 2016.
  2. ^ "'Making a Murderer': Brendan Dassey Confession". Tech Insider. Retrieved July 17, 2016.
  3. ^ Alison Dirr and John Ferak. "Day 6: Defense arguments not in 'Making a Murderer'". Appleton Post-Crescent, January 14, 2016. Accessed June 20, 2016.
  4. ^ Shane Nyman. "Dassey brother raps about 'Making a Murderer' case", USA Today, January 13, 2016. Accessed June 20, 2016.
  5. ^ a b Ashley Louszko; Ignacio Torres; Lauren Effron; Ben Newman (March 8, 2016). "'Making a Murderer': The Complicated Argument Over Brendan Dassey's Confession". ABC News. Retrieved June 20, 2016.
  6. ^ "Making a Murderer Petitions for Steve Avery and Brendan Dassey". Newsweek. January 16, 2016. Retrieved June 17, 2016.
  7. ^ a b Felton, Ryan (January 20, 2016). "Controversial Making a Murderer lawyer: 'I don't get Netflix at home'". theguardian.com.
  8. ^ "Brendan Dassey to miss WrestleMania, again". The Post-Crescent.
  9. ^ "What 'Making a Murderer' Reveals About the Justice System and Intellectual Disability". Rolling Stone. January 11, 2016. Retrieved July 17, 2016.
  10. ^ "The most controversial confession in 'Making a Murderer' was crazier than the doc reveals". Techinsider.io. Retrieved July 17, 2016.
  11. ^ "Wieting Family Funeral Home » Obituaries". wietingfuneralhome.com.
  12. ^ Morgan Sennhauser (January 5, 2016). "What Happened to Andrew Colborn – 2016 News & Updates". Gazettereview.com. Retrieved July 17, 2016.
  13. ^ "Teresa Halbach Making a Murderer". sheknows.com.
  14. ^ Dassey v. Dittmann, F.3d (7th Cir.) ("Dassey spoke with the interrogators freely, after receiving and understanding Miranda warnings, and with his mother’s consent.").
  15. ^ a b Bauer, Scott (August 13, 2016), "US court orders release of Brendan Dassey from Making a Murderer", St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Associated Press, archived from the original on August 15, 2016, retrieved August 13, 2016
  16. ^ Almasy, Steve (August 12, 2016). "'Making a Murderer:' Brendan Dassey's conviction overturned". CNN. Retrieved August 12, 2016.
  17. ^ "Episode 8 of Making a Murderer | Netflix". www.netflix.com. Retrieved October 5, 2016.
  18. ^ McCall, Matt (January 7, 2016). "'Making a Murderer' raises questions about interrogation technique from Chicago". Chicago Tribune.
  19. ^ Nesterak, Evan (October 21, 2014). "Coerced to Confess: The Psychology of False Confessions – The Psych Report". Thepsychreport.com. Archived from the original on March 4, 2019. Retrieved July 17, 2016.
  20. ^ Lee, John (January 7, 2016). "Judge: Psychologist can testify to Dassey's 'suggestibility'". PostCrescent.com. Retrieved July 17, 2016.
  21. ^ Buckmelter, Marsi (May 20, 2016). "Asked and Answered: Tom Geraghty on Making a Murderer – The Legal Advocate". nita.org. Archived from the original on October 22, 2018. Retrieved November 21, 2017.
  22. ^ Griffin, Lisa Kern (January 12, 2016). "Making a Murderer is about justice not truth". New York Times. Retrieved July 17, 2016.
  23. ^ NBC15. "Jury Selected from Dane County for Dassey Trial". nbc15.com. Archived from the original on January 2, 2018.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  24. ^ "'Making A Murderer' Update: Deputies Broke Law During Brendan Dassey's Trial". Morning News USA. May 17, 2016. Archived from the original on May 18, 2016. Retrieved June 15, 2016.
  25. ^ "How "Making a Murderer" Went Wrong". newyorker.com. January 18, 2016.
  26. ^ Nededog, Jethro. "Brendan Dassey's lawyer explains why she says his 'Making a Murderer' confession is false". timestelegram.com. Archived from the original on August 15, 2016. Retrieved June 15, 2016.
  27. ^ "Brendan Dassey moved to Columbia Correctional". wisn.com. January 21, 2016.
  28. ^ "State v. Brendan R. Dassey :: 2013 :: Wisconsin Court of Appeals Decisions :: Wisconsin Case Law :: Wisconsin Law :: U.S. Law :: Justia". Law.justia.com. Retrieved July 17, 2016.
  29. ^ "How Making A Murderer Will Change The Way We Think About Justice". huffingtonpost.com.au. March 31, 2016.
  30. ^ Itzkoff, Dave (July 19, 2016). "'Making A Murderer returning with new episodes – New York Times". The New York Times.
  31. ^ "Petition proposes 'brendan-dasseys-mother-asks-legislation-protect-minors-interrogations'". groundreport.com/. July 29, 2016.
  32. ^ "'Making a Murderer' Sparks Petitions to Free Steven Avery". thewrap.com. December 29, 2015.
  33. ^ "New petition calls for federal investigation into Halbach murder". nbc26.com. January 8, 2016. Archived from the original on January 16, 2016. Retrieved June 13, 2016.
  34. ^ a b "Steven Avery Supporters Hold Peaceful Rally In Manitowoc County, Event Ends Early". inquisitr.com. June 12, 2016.
  35. ^ Jamie Bullen. "Making A Murderer protest: Harry Potter star joins demonstrators to demand release of prisoners". Evening Standard, April 2, 2016. Accessed June 14, 2016.
  36. ^ "Asked and Answered: Steve Drizin on Making a Murderer – The Legal Advocate". nita.org. May 27, 2016. Archived from the original on October 26, 2018. Retrieved June 5, 2016.
  37. ^ "False Confessions False Conceptions". Chicago Law Bulletin. Retrieved July 17, 2016.
  38. ^ Andy Thompson (December 21, 2015). "Dassey seeks release in Halbach murder". Appleton Post-Crescent. Retrieved December 21, 2015.
  39. ^ "Netflix's Making a Murderer subject Brendan Dassey has conviction overturned". ABC News. Reuters. August 13, 2016. Retrieved August 13, 2016.
  40. ^ "Judge orders release of Brendan Dassey, pending possible retrial". November 14, 2016. Retrieved November 14, 2016.
  41. ^ Dassey v. Dittmann, 201 F.Supp.3d 963 (E.D. Wis. 2016).
  42. ^ "Appeals court blocks 'Making a Murderer' subject's prison release". CBS News. November 17, 2016. Retrieved November 17, 2016.
  43. ^ ""Making A Murderer": Federal court affirms ruling overturning Brendan Dassey conviction". WBAY. June 22, 2017. Archived from the original on June 22, 2017.
  44. ^ Cassens Weiss, Debra (June 22, 2017). "7th Circuit refuses to reinstate conviction of Brendan Dassey in 'Making a Murderer' case". ABA Journal. Retrieved December 13, 2017.
  45. ^ Dassey v. Dittmann, 860 F.3d 933 (7th Cir. 2017).
  46. ^ ""Making A Murderer": State petitions full appeals court to hear Dassey case". wbay.com. July 5, 2017.
  47. ^ Entire Seventh Circuit Will Hear Making A Murderer’s Brendan Dassey Case, Law Newz, 4 August 2017
  48. ^ Dassey v. Dittman, uscourts.gov 16‐3397 (7th Cir. December 8, 2017) ("Given the state courts’ reasonable findings of fact and the absence of clearly established Supreme Court precedent that compels relief for Dassey, the district court’s grant of habeas relief is REVERSED. The case is REMANDED to the district court with instructions to dismiss the petition.").
  49. ^ Tarm, Michael (December 8, 2017). "Conviction of Brendan Dassey in 'Making a Murderer' case narrowly upheld by appeals court". Chicago Tribune. Associated Press. Retrieved December 13, 2017.
  50. ^ Victor, Daniel (December 9, 2017). "Court Rules Against Brendan Dassey, Subject of 'Making a Murderer'". The New York Times. p. A14. Retrieved December 13, 2017.
  51. ^ Cassens Weiss, Debra (December 8, 2017). "En banc 7th Circuit reinstates Brendan Dassey's conviction in 'Making a Murderer' case". ABA Journal. Retrieved December 13, 2017.
  52. ^ "Docket for 17-1172". www.supremecourt.gov. Clerk of the Supreme Court of the United States. Retrieved June 17, 2018.
  53. ^ Thompson, Andy. "U.S. Supreme Court delays consideration of Brendan Dassey's appeal in 'Making a Murderer' case". Post-Crescent Media. USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin. Retrieved June 17, 2018.

External links[edit]