Brendan Dassey, who was found guilty of assisting in a 2005 murder in Wisconsin on the basis of a confession that his lawyers say was coerced, will not be getting his case reconsidered by the Supreme Court.
Dassey’s case was featured in a Netflix documentary called Making a Murderer, which cast doubt on the validity of his conviction, as well as that of his uncle, Steven Avery.
Over the past two years, a lower court and a three-judge panel of an appeals court both found that Dassey’s confession was involuntary and that he should be released.
But in December, the full appeals court overturned those decisions, ruling that Dassey should remain behind bars for the remainder of his life sentence.
The U.S. Supreme Court announced Monday that it has declined to hear Dassey’s appeal, which means the conviction stands. As usual, the court did not provide a reason for denying the petition.
Dassey’s lawyer says her team “will continue to fight to free Brendan Dassey.”
“The video of Brendan’s interrogation shows a confused boy who was manipulated by experienced police officers into accepting their story of how the murder of Teresa Halbach happened,” Laura Nirider said in a statement. “By the end of the interrogation, Brendan was so confused that he actually thought he was going to return to school after confessing to murder.”
As NPR has previously reported, a federal judge in 2016 concluded that Dassey, who was a teenager of “below average intellectual ability” at the time of his confession, was deceived and coerced by investigators:
“Dassey was 16 years old when he confessed to helping his uncle, Steven Avery, carry out the rape and murder of 25-year-old photographer Teresa Halbach.
“Halbach was killed at the Avery Salvage Yard, where she had been hired to photograph vehicles for a magazine, according to court documents. Investigators found burned human remains that matched Halbach’s DNA, along with her car, where they discovered multiple bloodstains. …
“The focus of the judge’s decision was on the interrogation when Dassey confessed. Over the course of a three-hour period of questioning, ‘generally responding to the investigators’ questions with answers of just a few hushed words, a story evolved whereby in its final iteration Dassey implicated himself in the rape, murder and mutilation of Teresa Halbach,’ according to the judge’s [August 2016] decision.
“The confession happened without a parent or another adult present, and investigators ‘exploited the absence of such an adult by repeatedly suggesting that they were looking out for his interests,’ the decision states … The investigators repeatedly said that they ‘already know’ what happened on the day of Halbach’s killing and that Dassey had nothing to worry about.”
An appellate panel upheld the decision to release Dassey. But the full appeals court overturned it, finding that while it was debatable whether Dassey’s confession was valid, the original state court was not being unreasonable in finding the confession voluntary.
The original conviction relied on “fairly detailed findings of fact, which were not clearly erroneous,” that appellate court found.