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MAKING A MURDERER: Brendan Dassey’s Conviction Overturned & Filmmakers Respond

Brendan Dassey Making A Murderer

Brendan Dassey’s Conviction Overturned, Making A Murderer Filmmakers Comment

Brendan Dassey‘s conviction for the murder of Teresa Halbach has been overturned by Milwaukee U.S. Magistrate Judge William Duffin. Dassey along with Steven Avery were convicted of Halbach’s murder in 2005. Both of their murder trials and convictions were chronicled by Laura Ricciardi and Moira Demos‘ documentary Netflix TV series Making A Murderer.

While watching the first season of Making A Murderer, many viewers were astonished by how Dassey’s first lawyer Len Kachinsky and police detectives egregiously manipulated him, on camera no less, and yet he was still convicted of murder. It would seem that Judge Duffin thought that a line had been crossed as well.

From the beginning, Kachinsky’s motives regarding Dassey were dubious:

Kachinsky was excited to be involved in Dassey’s case because by then it had garnered significant local and national attention. (ECF No. 19-26 at 122-23.) Essentially immediately after his appointment Kachinsky began giving media interviews in which he discussed the case.

The 91-page ruling by Judge Duffin goes on and on about Kachinsky maleficence on Dassey’s behalf. The ruling also showed that Kachinsky outright lied.

On March 17 Kachinsky appeared on Nancy Grace’s national television show. (ECF No. 19 -26 at 141-42.) During that appearance Kachinsky said that, if the recording of Dassey’s statement was accurate and admissible, “there is, quite frankly, no defense.” (ECF No. 19-26 at 142-43.) Kachinsky later said that he was merely “stating the obvious.” (ECF No. 19-26 at 144.) However, Kachinsky had not yet watched the March 1 recorded interview. (ECF No. 19-26 at 145.) All he had seen was the criminal complaint. (ECF No. 19-26 at 145.)

Kachinsky seemed more interested in the media attention the case brought to him than in defending Dassey:

Over the roughly three weeks following his appointment Kachinsky spent about one hour with Dassey and at least 10 hours communicating with the press. (ECF No. 19-26 at 183.)

Judge Duffin came down very hard on Kachinsky:

Although it probably does not need to be stated, it will be: Kachinsky’s conduct was inexcusable both tactically and ethically. It is one thing for an attorney to point out to a client how deep of a hole the client is in. But to assist the prosecution in digging that hole deeper is an affront to the principles of justice that underlie a defense attorney’s vital role in the adversarial system.

Judge Duffin went on to say that Kachinsky “unquestionably” breached his “duty of loyalty” to Dassey.

Judge Duffin called into doubt the validity of Dassey’s first confession, ruling that it was involuntary:

Based on its review of the record, the court acknowledges significant doubts as to the reliability of Dassey’s confession. Crucial details evolved through repeated leading and suggestive questioning and generally stopped changing only after the investigators, in some manner, indicated to Dassey that he finally gave the answer they were looking for. (See ECF No. 19-27 at 210-32.)

the state courts unreasonably found that the investigators never made Dassey any promises during the March 1, 2006 interrogation. The investigators repeatedly claimed to already know what happened on October 31 and assured Dassey that he had nothing to worry about. These repeated false promises, when considered in conjunction with all relevant factors, most especially Dassey’s age, intellectual deficits, and the absence of a supportive adult, rendered Dassey’s confession involuntary under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments. The Wisconsin Court of Appeals’ decision to the contrary was an unreasonable application of clearly established federal law

Following that finding, Dassey was order released from prison:

IT IS THEREFORE ORDERED that Brendan Dassey’s petition for a writ of habeas corpus is GRANTED. The respondent shall release Dassey from custody unless, within 90 days of the date of this decision, the State initiates proceedings to retry him.

Following that ruling, Laura Ricciardi and Moira Demos issued this statement regarding Making a Murderer: Season 2:

Today there was a major development for the subjects in our story and this recent news shows the criminal justice system at work. As we have done for the past 10 years, we will continue to document the story as it unfolds, and follow it wherever it may lead.

Though I agree with Judge Duffin’s thorough assessment of the situation, I am sad and surprised. I am sad because Dassey lost a significant and valuable part of his life behind bars. I was surprised because so much of the material used to convict Dassey, the coercion and so forth, was readily available yet the conviction stood for years. Attorneys for Dassey’s defense had the coercion on tape and still it stood. It was unbelievable to witness.

One wonders how this ruling will effect Steven Avery’s case.

Leave your thoughts on Brendan Dassey’s conviction being overturned and the filmmakers of Making a Murderer response to it (via Deadline) below in the comments section. Readers seeking more TV show news can visit our TV Show News Page, our TV Show News Google+ Page, and our TV Show News Facebook Page. Want up-to-the-minute notifications? FilmBook staff members publish articles by Email, Twitter, Tumblr, Google+, and Facebook.


About the author

Rollo Tomasi

A Political Science and MBA grad who started FilmBook during an eCommerce B-School course in 2008. Cinema and TV addict. Former writer at Empire Movies, Blogcritics, and Alternative Film Guide. In addition to writing for FilmBook, he also edits the copy published on the website, manages its writing staff, manages the back-end operations, site finances, its social network accounts, and works with publicists, actors, and companies on press coverage and promotions. He has also created and Trending

  • arugala

    I am thrilled for Brendan, and we all know if he were to file a civil case against the county, he would end up on the other end of another murder, with some car being placed on his front porch, HOWEVER, If not for moira and laura, as sad as it seems, no one would have looked back at this case. Brendan would have stayed in jail for life, do I think there is justice in this case? not sure yet, I also know they (the prosecution) will not try to re-try Brendan, it will just shed light on all the horrific and despicable things they said and did to put him there in the first place. I think Kratz and Kachinsky will see this as an opportunity to be front and center again on camera, that being said, I hope if they are asked to speak, they are shown in a worse light they could shine upon themselves if at all possible. The sad part in this case is all the evil players are seeing this as an opportunity for them to make money or be on tv or both, I hope it doesnt happen for them. Brendan getting out of jail does not fix things in his life, I would be willing to help in some way for this sweet boy to have a chance at a job, a life, an apartment, or whatever someone can be wise enough to set up for him. I hope there is a sit down interview with Brendan and he is treated like a human being, and maybe gets paid to do so, where he feels comfortable and confident to open up and tell the whole truth for all of us to see, I’m very excited to see that happen, hell, I’d even read any book Brendan wrote about this absolute travesty to his life, it wouldn’t matter if he doesn’t have the vocabulary, it would be the most honest, gutwrenching and touching bestseller. Second, I hope this is good news for Steven Avery and his case, although, I already see the media spinning their lies, bringing back the crackhead ex-girlfriend Jodi stachowsky, imagine that? She is disgusting, pretending to care about Brendan, she is truly evil. Last, if steven avery is let out, I think the perfect ending to the Making a Murderer documentary would be knocks on doors and endings to careers of those in law enforcement and the court system that set out to ruin both the lives of Brendan and Steven – they are Kratz, Kachinski, Colburn, Peterson, Vogl, Kusche, Lenk, Judge Hazelwood, Culhane, Stachowsky, Beernstein and I’m sure I left some out, I hope all of these players meet Karma and soon. We love you Brendan, and hope only good things for your future, so many of us want to see you happy. And to Allen and Dolores Avery, what kind people you are, I wish you some peace in your life, finally! and know we have much, much love to you both for being so brave in a town that did nothing but beat you down, it has shown us how awful the world can be, but also, that in times of despair, there are many wonderful people out there willing to help in some sort of way.

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