“Making a Murderer” subject Brendan Dassey has had his conviction overturned by a federal judge in Teresa Halbach’s murder case. Dassey had been sentenced to 41 years in prison on charges of first-degree intentional homicide, second-degree sexual assault, and mutilation of a corpse in the Manitowoc County, Wisc. case.
Dassey, along with his uncle Steven Avery, was the subject of Netflix’s hit documentary series “Making a Murderer,” which first ran in Dec. 2015. The 10-part show followed Avery’s first conviction, which landed him in prison for 18 years until he was exonerated. He was later accused of murdering Halbach, a photographer who had photographed his car for Auto Trader magazine.
Dassey was 16 when Halbach was killed in 2005. He turns 27 on Oct. 19.
“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,” said “Making a Murderer” directors and executive producers Laura Ricciardi and Moira Demos in a statement today.
The series also covers the controversy surrounding both arrests and subsequent convictions. According to “Making a Murderer,” the police coerced confessions out of Dassey and planted evidence to bring in Avery. The Wisconsin judge found on Friday that Dassey’s confession in the investigation into Halbach’s murder was involuntary. At several points during his trial and confession, the teen-aged Dassey appeared to have little understanding of the details of the case and of the judicial system.
Viewers were outraged with the outcome of the case, even going as far as drafting a White House petition, which garnered over 130,000 signatures, asking President Obama to issue full pardons to both Avery and Dassey. Since both of them were state prisoners, the President could not pardon them.
In an interview with Variety, Dassey’s lawyer Steven Drizin said that “Making a Murderer” has “raised serious concerns about how police officers interrogate suspects, particularly youthful suspects” and has also served to “educate people about the problem of false and coerced confessions.”
Netflix had previously announced that it will be releasing more “Making a Murderer” episodes, chronicling the post-conviction process and the emotional toll that has had on the defendants and their families. The premiere date for Season 2 has yet to be announced.
If the state chooses not to refile, Dassey will be free in 90 days.