The full 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals analyzed Dassey’s claims that detectives manipulated him into confessing that he took part a crime he didn’t commit. In 2007, Dassey was sentenced to life in prison after telling investigators he helped his uncle, Steven Avery, rape and kill photographer Teresa Halbach in 2005.
Upon review, the 4-to-3 opinion concluded that claims Dassey wasn’t tricked into confessing were reasonable. “The state courts’ finding that Dassey’s confession was voluntary was not beyond fair debate, but we conclude it was reasonable,” their 39-page ruling said.
In her dissent, Judge Ilana Diamond Rovner wrote, “His confession was not voluntary and his conviction should not stand, and yet an impaired teenager has been sentenced to life in prison. I view this as a profound miscarriage of justice.”
Another dissenting judge, Chief Judge Diane P. Wood, wrote, “Without this involuntary and highly unreliable confession, the case against Dassey was almost nonexistent.”
A federal judge overturned Dassey’s conviction last year, ruling that Wisconson courts failed to consider Dassey’s age — he was 16 at the time of the confession — and his learning disabilities when they rejected his earlier appeals.
Dassey, now 27, has remained in prison while the state appealed.
The case of Halbach’s death drew national attention when Netflix aired “Making a Murderer” in 2015. The 10-part series questioned whether Avery and Dassey were innocent or guilty.