Making a Murderer’s Brendan Dassey Appeal Denied by the Supreme Court

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Dassey. Photo: MORRY GASH/AP/REX/Shutterstock

Making a Murderer’s Brendan Dassey has been rejected by the Supreme Court. On Monday, they declined a plea to hear Dassey’s appeal of his conviction for the 2007 murder of Teresa Halbach in Manitowoc County, Wisconsin, which was the subject of the Netflix true-crime series. In August 2016, a Milwaukee federal judge overturned Dassey’s conviction, determining that the then 16-year-old’s controversial confession was coerced. However, an appeals panel ruled in December 2017 that Dassey’s confession could be used against him; Dassey, now 28, was ordered to serve out the remainder of his life sentence in prison. The Supreme Court will not review that panel’s decision, giving no reason for their rejection. Dassey’s uncle, Steven Avery, who was also convicted for the murder, is still appealing his case. In 2016, Netflix renewed Making a Murderer for more episodes, pending further developments in the case.

Update: Dassey’s lawyer has provided the following statement to Vulture in response to the Supreme Court’s decision:

“We will continue to fight to free Brendan Dassey. Brendan was a sixteen-year old with intellectual and social disabilities when he confessed to a crime he did not commit. 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. These officers repeatedly assured him that everything would be ‘okay’ if he just told them what they wanted to hear and then fed him facts so that Brendan’s ‘confession’ fit their theory of the crime. 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. Nonetheless, he was convicted and sentenced to life in prison on the basis of this ‘confession.’


Unfortunately, Brendan isn’t alone. Over the past twenty years, extensive empirical and psychological research has shown that children under 18 are between three and four times more likely to falsely confess than adults – and yet the criminal justice system fails many of them. It’s up to the courts to put an end to this. Now, more than ever, courts around the country must update their understandings of coercion in light of the newly understood problem of false confessions. The Center on Wrongful Convictions of Youth is dedicated to continuing this effort, along with our justice-minded partners in both law enforcement and defense-oriented communities across the globe.  


We would like to extend sincere gratitude to the dozens of former prosecutors, national law enforcement trainers, leading psychological experts, innocence projects, juvenile justice organizations, and law professors who filed amicus briefs in this case and who, along with our legal team, will continue to fight for Brendan and the many other children who have been wrongfully convicted due to the use of coercive interrogation tactics.”

Supreme Court Rejects Making a Murderer’s Brendan Dassey