Laura Nirider (née Hepokoski, born October 16, 1981) is an American attorney and legal scholar working as an Associate Professor of Law and the co-director of the Center on Wrongful Convictions at Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law. An expert on false confessions, Nirider specializes in representing young people who confessed to crimes they did not commit, and working to reform the process of police interrogation. Nirider's work gained international visibility following her involvement in several high-profile cases involving juvenile confessions. Her clients have included Brendan Dassey, whose case was profiled on the Netflix documentary Making a Murderer, and Damien Echols of the West Memphis Three, whose case was profiled on the HBO series Paradise Lost and the documentary West of Memphis. She also hosts a podcast on false confessions, entitled Wrongful Conviction: False Confessions.
Nirider earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science from the University of Chicago. She then earned a Juris Doctor from the Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law, graduating magna cum laude.
Center on Wrongful Convictions of Youth
From 2009 to 2019, Nirider was co-director of the Center on Wrongful Convictions of Youth, alongside Prof. Steven Drizin. An expert on how children can be coerced into giving a confession for crimes that they did not commit, Nirider often discusses purposeful or inadvertent tactics which can break down or mislead young people. She states that even well-meaning police interrogators can induce a false confession from vulnerable people. Interrogation is often taught with the aim of extracting information from stubborn, hardened, and fully-grown individuals, hence making it unsuitable for use on young people and especially vulnerable young people. The center aims to tackle this issue through teaching upcoming law students, as well as attorneys and judges, and lobbying policy-makers. One such law that Drizin helped to introduce was one requiring juvenile interviews in Wisconsin to be videotaped, which was enacted in time to play a significant role in the ongoing trials of Brendan Dassey.
Nirider currently teaches law students about false confessions in young people, a course she attended herself when she was a student. She has published extensively on the causes of false confessions, and has been invited to give keynote talks at multitudes of conferences and symposia concerning issues within the justice system and forensic science. Alongside the International Association of Police Chiefs, Nirider and members of the Center have published guidelines on how to effectively interview young people without coercing a false confession.
Nirider has been interviewed about the concerning role of Reid technique interrogation being taught to school officials in order to extract confessions from students, highlighting the stark differences in awareness between adult and juvenile individuals. Changes to interrogation techniques, such as a move away from the Reid technique, could benefit both innocent juveniles and adults.
Brendan Dassey was featured on Making a Murderer. Nirider featured in the final episode of the first season of the documentary, which propelled her to fame among fans of the show thanks to her commitment to the cause and strong, intelligent demeanour. She is featured throughout the second series as it chronicles the CWCY's efforts to remove Dassey's confession being confirmed as evidence, the only piece of evidence that links him to the murder of Teresa Halbach.
Nirider has stated that one of her reasons for entering juvenile law (in particular focussing on false confessions) was her involvement in the Dassey case while Drizin's postgraduate student in 2007. Even while working briefly in commercial law Nirider continued to contribute to the Dassey case. Dassey remains behind bars; however, efforts to prove that his confession was extracted through unsuitable methods, with Nirider and Drizin at the helm, remain ongoing. Nirider is strongly critical of the methods used to interrogate a vulnerable and "mentally-limited" 16 year-old, as well as Dassey's previous legal representation.
Nirider, alongside Drizin, has undertaken tours of the UK and Ireland discussing her work on Making a Murderer and the science of coerced confessions. She has been interviewed extensively by the media, and also Innocence Project, as a result of publicity from the documentary.
Damien Echols was a member of the West Memphis Three who had been sentenced to death, but was released in 2011 with Nirider as co-counsel. Nirider uses the cases of Echols and Dassey both to highlight the potential benefits of media attention to cases of wrongful guilt. Featured on the documentary West of Memphis.
- "Laura H. Nirider". www.law.northwestern.edu. Retrieved 2018-12-22.
- McBride, Jessica (2018-10-19). "Laura Nirider: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know". Heavy.com. Retrieved 2018-12-22.
- ""Making a Murderer" Part 2: Q&A with Brendan Dassey's Attorneys, Professors Steven Drizin and Laura Nirider, News: Northwestern Pritzker School of Law". Northwestern Law. Retrieved 2018-12-23.
- "Laura H Nirider CV" (PDF). www.law.northwestern.edu. Retrieved 2018-12-22.
- Walsh, Charlotte (2018-11-01). "Pritzker lawyers in "Making a Murderer" talk Brendan Dassey appeals". The Daily Northwestern. Retrieved 2018-12-23.
- Crawford, Hillary E. "The Reason Brendan Dassey's Lawyer Believes In Him". Bustle. Retrieved 2019-01-02.
- Nededog, Jethro. "Brendan Dassey's lawyer explains why she says his 'Making a Murderer' confession is false". Business Insider. Retrieved 2019-01-02.
- "Laura Nirider Making a Murderer Interview - Flare". www.flare.com. Retrieved 2018-12-23.
- John, Allen St. "The Truth Will Help Brendan Dassey: A Conversation With 'Making A Murderer' Attorney Laura Nirider". Forbes. Retrieved 2018-12-23.
- Knefel, Molly (2016-01-08). "'Making a Murderer,' and False Youth Confessions". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2018-12-23.
- Din, Benjamin (2016-01-14). "Brendan Dassey case shines spotlight on Northwestern's Center on Wrongful Convictions of Youth". The Daily Northwestern. Retrieved 2018-12-23.
- Hyman, Dan (2016-01-07). "Here's How the 'Making a Murderer' Nephew May Clear His Name". Esquire. Retrieved 2018-12-23.
- Salizar, Carlita (2016-11-15). "Innocence Project Interviews Brendan Dassey Attorney". Innocence Project. Retrieved 2019-01-02.
- "Making a Murderer: Defence Lawyer Laura Nirider". BBC Radio Scotland: The Afternoon Show. 7 Dec 2018. Retrieved 23 Dec 2018.
- Henning, Kristin; Cohen, Laura; Marrus, Ellen. Rights, race, and reform: 50 years of child advocacy in the juvenile justice system. Abingdon, Oxon. ISBN 9781138094697. OCLC 1012730056.
- Tricarico, Lynda; Nirider, Laura; Tepfer, Joshua (2010-08-23). "Arresting Development: Convictions of Innocent Youth". Rutgers Law Review. Rochester, NY. 62. SSRN 2010197.
- "Young Women in Law | Events". Retrieved 2018-12-23.
- Philip, Stephanie (2017-04-19). "The Circuit: The lawyer who stars in Making a Murderer says she owes much of her success to her mentor". Precedent. Retrieved 2019-01-02.
- Drizin, Steven; Nirider, Laura; Nawoichyk, James; Tepfer, Joshua (September 2012). "Reducing Risks: An Executive's Guide to Effective Juvenile Interview & Interrogation" (PDF). www.theiacp.org. Retrieved 2018-12-23.
- Starr, Douglas (25 March 2016). "Why are educators learning how to interrogate their students?". The New Yorker. Retrieved 23 Dec 2018.
- Starr, Douglas (6 June 2018). "In the "Making a Murderer" Case, the Supreme Court Could Help Address the Problem of False Confessions". The New Yorker. Retrieved 23 Dec 2018.
- "Northwestern Law Alumni Awards". law.alumni.northwestern.edu. Retrieved 2018-12-23.
- Carlin, Shannon. "Who Is 'Making A Murderer's Laura Nirider?". Bustle. Retrieved 2019-01-02.
- Levine, Eitan (19 July 2016). "You're Probably Crushing On Laura Nirider From 'Making A Murderer'". Elite Daily. Retrieved 2018-12-23.
- Haggerty, Jim (15 June 2017). "Attorney Laura Nirider: Brendan Dassey Case 'Changed My Life'". Inquisitr. Retrieved 2 January 2019.
- "Brendan Dassey Case Update, Wrongful Convictions of Youth: Bluhm Legal Clinic, Northwestern Pritzker School of Law". www.law.northwestern.edu. Retrieved 2018-12-23.
- Felton, Ryan (2016-01-20). "Controversial Making a Murderer lawyer: 'I don't get Netflix at home'". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2018-12-23.
- "Inside Making a Murderer 2: Brendan Dassey's lawyers, Laura Nirider and Steven Drizin, coming to Ireland". www.irishexaminer.com. 2018-12-04. Retrieved 2018-12-22.
- "Making a Murder: Laura Nirider and Steven Drizin from See Tickets". SeeTickets. Retrieved 2018-12-22.
- Ruiz, Michelle. "Could Making a Murderer Free Steven Avery and Brendan Dassey?". Vogue. Retrieved 2018-12-23.