In August 2016, a Milwaukee federal judge overturned the 2007 murder conviction of Making a Murderer’s Brendan Dassey. The subject of the Netflix docuseries, along with his uncle Steven Avery, was found to be guilty of the murder of photographer Teresa Halbach in 2005. Dassey remained in prison throughout 2017 due to the appeals process, but his release looked more likely this June, when a federal appeals court affirmed the lower court’s finding that Dassey was coerced into falsely confessing to the killing by police. However, as BuzzFeed now reports, an appeals panel ruled Friday 4-3 that Dassey’s confession could be used against him in a court of law, citing his decision to speak “freely” about his guilt. As a result, Dassey will continue to serve out his life sentence for first-degree murder, second-degree sexual assault and mutilation of a corpse. “Dassey provided many of the most damning details himself in response to open‐ended questions,” the majority ruling said in part. “On a number of occasions he resisted the interrogators’ strong suggestions on particular details. Also, the investigators made no specific promises of leniency.”
The three other judges, however, seemed to agree with the perspective shared by many of Making a Murderer viewers: that the then-16-year-old Dassey’s mental limitations left him vulnerable to suggestion by police. As they said in their dissenting opinion, “Psychological coercion, questions to which the police furnished the answers, and ghoulish games of ‘20 Questions,’ in which Brendan Dassey guessed over and over again before he landed on the ‘correct’ story (i.e., the one the police wanted), led to the ‘confession’ that furnished the only serious evidence supporting his murder conviction in the Wisconsin courts.” They went on to note, “Innocent people do in fact confess, and they do so with shocking regularity.” According to the AP, Dassey’s attorneys reportedly promised to take the case to the Supreme Court if necessary.