It took a popular documentary “Making a Murderer” to have Brendan Dassey cleared of the crime after he spent 10 years in prison. His case sheds light on how the rights of mentally ill people are frequently violated in the justice system.
The Netflix documentary series chronicles the lives and trials of Dassey who was accused of helping his uncle, Steven Avery, murder Teresa Halbach in October 2005.
Following the ruling by the judge in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Dassey, 26, will be released within 90 days, unless the state decides to retry him.
Avery and Dassey, who was 16 at the time, were sentenced to life in prison.
Why Is This Important?
Because whatever your opinion of Steven Avery, most people agreed that Brendan got railroaded.
Attorneys argued Brendan Dassey’s confession to helping his uncle Steven Avery carry out a rape and murder was coerced.
Dassey’s case was so alarming in part due to his apparent intellectual limitations, which some people felt bordered on a disability. Frustrated with a lack of progress, investigators convinced Dassey to give an interview with neither his parents nor legal council present.
Per ABC 12, Steven Avery remains convicted, but is appealing his conviction with new legal council.
Avery was convicted separately in the homicide and is serving a life sentence. He is pursuing his own appeal.
The uncle – who maintains his innocence – had previously served 18 years for a rape he did not commit.
Dassey’s case became a cause celebre with the popularity of Netflix’s series.
The filmmakers cast doubt on the legal process used to convict Avery and Dassey, but prosecutors said the 10-hour series was biased.
Avery’s lawyer, Kathleen Zellner, said she visited him in prison on Friday and he told her he was “so happy” his nephew had been exonerated.
Ms Zellner said she is confident Avery’s conviction will eventually also be overturned “when an unbiased court” reviews it.
On Friday, Judge William Duffin stated in the court ruling that investigators in the 2007 trial made false promises to Dassey by assuring him “he had nothing to worry about”, the Associated Press news agency reports.
“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 14th Amendments,” the judge said.
Disabled people account for 1 in 3 of all excessive force claims against police – study http://on.rt.com/775s
It’s not just Dassey
An investigation by the Chicago Tribune found that over the course of a decade, there were 247 examples of a defendant’s self-incriminating statements being thrown out of court for being tainted or juries did not find it convincing enough to convict.
“At least two dozen of the 247 defendants in the cases examined by the Tribune were mentally retarded, or had significant learning disabilities,” the Tribune noted.
The Innocence Project, a nonprofit dedicated to releasing the wrongly incarcerated, found that “more than one out of four people wrongfully convicted but later exonerated by DNA evidence made a false confession or incriminating statement.”
Here are the pieces of this. The mentally ill or disabled are the most likely to be arrested. If they are suspects in a crime, they are likely to be interrogated without counsel or understanding their rights. From there, it is easy to get a false confession out of someone without the mental faculties or education to know their rights or the best course of action.