Photographer Teresa Halbach was reported missing by her parents on November 3, 2005. Halbach was last seen visiting the Avery Salvage Yard in Manitowoc County, Wisconsin on October 31, 2005.
Eventually, Halbach’s RAV4 was found on the Avery Property and on November 10, 2005, Calumet County Sheriff Jerry Pagel found Halbach’s burned remains on the property, along with her cell phone, license plates and car key were also recovered.
On November 15, Avery Salvage Yard owner Steven Avery’s blood was found in her vehicle. Subsequently, Avery was charged with the kidnapping and murder of Halbach, mutilation of a corpse, and illegal possession of a firearm.
Avery’s 16-year-old nephew Brendan Dassey was soon questioned. Dassey has an extremely low IQ and has had to go to special classes while in school. During a lengthy interrogation by police, Dassey confessed to being a co-conspirator in the rape and murder of Halbach and mutilating her corpse.
Dassey was arrested and charged on March 1, 2006, with being party to a first-degree homicide, sexual assault, and mutilation of a corpse.
Dassey later recanted his confession in a letter to the trial judge, explaining his ideas came from a book. However, it was too late
The court removed Dassey’s first appointed lawyer, Len Kachinsky, on August 26, 2006, because he decided not to appear with his client during the May 13 interrogation. He was replaced by two public defenders.
Dassey’s trial began on April 16, 2007 and lasted nine days. Although he was only 17-years-old at the time of trial, Dassey was tried as an adult. After deliberating for four hours, the jury delivered a verdict on April 25, 2007, finding Dassey guilty of first-degree intentional homicide, rape and mutilation of a corpse. Dassey was also sentenced as an adult, and his intellectual limitations were ruled irrelevant. The judge sentenced Dassey to life in prison with eligibility for parole in 2048.
Much has come to light about the confession due to Netflix’s 2015 docuseries about the case, Making a Murderer. It turns out that Dassey was interrogated four times over a 48-hour period, using the controversial Reid Technique. Three of those three times there was no legal representative, parent, or other adult present. Dassey had been clinically evaluated as being highly suggestible, making him more vulnerable to false confessions. The confession has opened up a global dialogue about interrogation methods.
In January 2010, Dassey’s attorneys entered a motion for a retrial, after Judge Fox denied the motion/ In January 2013, Judge Fox’s ruling was affirmed by the Wisconsin Court of Appeals in January 2013, and the Wisconsin Supreme Court declined to review the case.
Dassey found himself thrust into the limelight 10 years after his alleged crime when Making a Murderer was released in December 2015. Following the series, public outcry over Dassey’s verdict.
Eventually, 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 indeed been coerced. HIs conviction was overturned and the judge ordered his release, but that order was delayed during appeal. In June 2017, a divided panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit affirmed the magistrate’s order overturning Dassey’s conviction. However, in December 2017, the full en banc Seventh Circuit upheld Dassey’s conviction by a vote of 4–3. The majority finding that the police had properly obtained Dassey’s controversial confession.
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, the process for seeking judicial review and a writ issued by a court that agrees to review, to the United States Supreme Court. Justices were scheduled to discuss the case to determine if they would hear the case on June 14, 2018, but on the morning of the conference the case was removed without explanation. On June 25, 2018, the certiorari was denied, which meant the U.S. Supreme Court rejected a motion to hear the appeal, according to NBC News.
One of Dassey’s lawyers Laura Nirider said in a statement to NPR that her legal team “will continue to fight to free Brendan Dassey.”
The attorney continued, “The video of Brendan’s interrogation shows a confused boy who was manipulated by experienced police officers into accepting their story of how the murder of Teresa Halbach happened. By the end of the interrogation, Brendan was so confused that he actually thought he was going to return to school after confessing to murder.”