Federal Appeals Court affirms lower court decision to overturn Dassey's conviction

Posted at 2:38 PM, Jun 22, 2017
and last updated 2017-06-22 23:13:34-04

A federal appeals court has upheld the district court's decision to overturn Brendan Dassey's conviction.

The writ of habeas corpus has been granted unless the state decides to retry Dassey within 90 days of Thursday.

A federal court in Wisconsin overturned Dassey's conviction in August of 2016.

Magistrate Judge William Duffin said in the ruling that investigators made false promises to Dassey by assuring him "he had nothing to worry about."

"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 Fourteenth Amendments," Duffin wrote.

The ruling came after Dassey's appeal was rejected by state courts.

Dassey is serving a life sentence for helping his uncle, Steven Avery, murder Teresa Halbach. The case has gained international attention due to the Netflix documentary "Making a Murderer."

Lawyers and supporters for Dassey are calling Thursday's decision a win.

"It's a huge victory for Brendan and his family," said Jerry Buting, Steven Avery's former attorney.

A district court ruled last year that investigators coerced the then 16-year-old into confessing.

"A federal magistrate judge in Milwaukee had ordered Brendan Dassey to either be released or retried, what the judge found was his confession was improperly obtained," said former federal prosecutor Jeff Wagner.

The state appealed that ruling to a panel of three judges in Chicago who said Dassey's constitutional rights were violated.

Though the ruling is favorable, Dassey won’t be release just yet. The state has 90 days to either release him, retry him or the state can appeal once again.

"Today's decision was just a three-judge panel, you can ask the whole court, all the sitting judges to hear the case," Wagner said.

Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel says he will do just that or take it to the Supreme Court. 

In a statement, he also said he sends his condolences to the Halbach family as they "suffer through another attempt by Mr. Dassey to re-litigate his guilty verdict and sentence."

Buting says this decision could have an affect on Avery's case.

"Steven has a new lawyer now who is going to be evaluating this and if there's any way she can use what's happened in the federal court in Brendan's case to help Steven I'm sure she will," Buting said.