Appeals court orders Dassey released or re-tried

Posted at 5:20 p.m. on June 22, 2017

The Brillion News

CHICAGO – In a final judgment issued on Thursday, June 22, a three-judge federal Court of Appeals, supported a federal magistrate judge’s order and has thrown out the conviction of Brendan Dassey, who was convicted of the murder of Teresa Halbach, along with his uncle Steven Avery.

Two judges upheld the August 2016 order of Federal Magistrate Judge William E. Duffin. One dissented.

The appeals court found that Dassey’s confession, during questioning by a state investigator and a Calumet County sheriff’s investigator, was not voluntary. Dassey was 16 at the time.

Dassey’s confession and conviction had been upheld by a state court of appeals.

One of the three federal appeals court judges, David Hamilton, dissented from the ruling of the other  two judges, but nevertheless wrote: “The Wisconsin Court of Appeals could have been much more thorough in its discussion …”

The Supreme Court of Wisconsin refused to hear an appeal of the state appeals court ruling, and so Dassey’s attorneys took their appeal to the federal court system. Last August, a federal magistrate judge ruled the confession inadmissible. The state appealed that decision to the U.S. Seventh District Court of Appeals.

The federal appeals court noted that the case against Dassey rested on the police interviews with Dassey and a phone call between Dassey and his mother.

“There was no physical evidence linking Dassey to the murder of Halbach …” the judges wrote. They also said that “False confessions are an anathema to the judicial process.”

The court also wrote: “We attach no nefarious purposes to the investigators who were using established interrogation techniques.” But, in a footnote, the federal appeals court said that “Dassey’s interrogation is now used as a ‘what not to do’ in at least one certified interrogation course.”

The court said that the investigator were “feeding Dassey answers” during their interviews.

The document, stating the majority opinion, concludes with “The decision of the [federal] district court is AFFIRMED in all respects. The writ of habeus corpus in GRANTED unless the State of Wisconsin elects to retry Dassey within 90 days of issuance of this court’s final mandate, or of the [U.S.] Supreme Court’s final mandate.”

In other words, the state had 90 days to put Dassey on trial again or release him from prison, unless the federal appeals court decision is appealed the the U.S. Supreme Court. A new trial would likely be unable to use Dassey’s confession.

The federal appeals court also had a message for the victim’s family: “Teresa Halbach’s family has now grieved for their painful loss through several trials, multiple state court appeals, state post-conviction relief appeals, and now the habeas proceedings in federal court. If only this court, through its many words, could re-write the tragic tale of that final day of Teresa’s life. But of course, we cannot.”

An in depth analysis of the federal appeals court ruling will be featured in the June 29 print edition of The Brillion News.

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