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Bobby Dassey may now be a suspect in the Teresa Halbach murder, but his younger brother, Brendan, is the one serving time in prison.
Brendan Dassey was convicted for the murder of the freelance photographer at the same time as his uncle, Steven Avery, in 2005. He was 16 at the time of his arrest.
True crime fans across the globe have kept their eyes on the case as two seasons of the hit Netflix series, Making a Murderer, revealed how lawyers tried to prove their innocence. We're now all eagerly awaiting the announcement of season 3.
Reality TV star and law student, Kim Kardashian-West, has previously expressed her support for Brendan Dassey as well. In 2019, she tweeted Wisconsin Governor, Tony Evers, and urged him to read Brendan Dassey's letter requesting a pardon.
Please @GovEvers Read this letter https://t.co/iiYVRlSfLK
- Kim Kardashian West (@KimKardashian) October 3, 2019
So who is Brendan Dassey? What's happening with the case now? And is he still in prison?
All those questions and more are answered below.
Brendan Dassey is Steven Avery's nephew. He is the son of Steven Avery's sister, Barb Tadych, which also makes him Dolores and Allan Avery's grandson.
Brendan has an older brother, Bobby Dassey, and half-brother, Brad Dassey. Brad recently spoke out about Barb Tadych's possible tampering with evidence in the case and argues that his uncle is "innocent".
Brendan is in his thirties now. He was incarcerated as a teenager, who would have been finishing high school. In his letter to Evers in 2019, he said he aspires to work in the video games industry if and when he is released from prison. But Evers has so far rejected Dassey's request of a pardon, despite celebrity backing.
As of May 2021, Brendan Dassey is still in prison, as is his uncle Steven Avery. At age 17, Brendan Dassey was convicted of first-degree homicide in the Teresa Halbach case and charged with rape, murder and mutilation of a corpse.
Brendan Dassey pled guilty to the murder after police interrogated him four times in 48 hours. His lawyers say coercive language was used, meaning the police put the words into Dassey's mouth. His lawyer, Laura Nirider, said he had consequently "confessed to a crime he did not commit."
A CNN report said that Dassey's lawyers believe he was sentenced "based solely on his confession with no physical evidence."
Unless his lawyers are successful in securing his early release, the earliest Dassey could be eligible for parole is 2048, when he'll be nearly 60.
With no DNA evidence to conclusively link Brendan Dassey to the murder, his legal team set about a post-conviction fight for his freedom in 2007. Nirider was a legal student at this time and is now his lead counsel.
In 2017, Dassey's legal team attempted to get his conviction overturned, citing "the leading, the fact-feeding, the false promises, the manipulation of Dassey's desire to please" among many factors which argued Dassey involuntarily confessed to the murder.
The appeal was rejected after judges ruled Dassey had spoken "'freely' after Miranda warnings with his mother's consent."
In a statement following this decision, Nirider said she would "continue to fight for Brendan and the many other children who have been wrongfully convicted due to the use of coercive interrogation tactics."
Nirider said this is a problem which isn't unique to Dassey's case. "Over the past 20 years, extensive empirical and psychological research has shown that children under 18 are between three and four times more likely to falsely confess than adults - and yet the criminal justice system fails many of them. It's up to the courts to put an end to this."
In August 2017, an "en banc hearing" in the appellate court was granted. "En banc" is french for "on the bench" and it involves a hearing of oral arguments in front of a whole panel of judges, not just one. During this hearing, Judge Ilana Rovner said Brendan Dassey was an "intellectually impaired juvenile" and that "his conviction should not stand."
In December 2017, Brendan Dassey's grant of Habeus (meaning he can stand before a judge to secure his release) was reversed.
The fight has continued all the way to the Supreme Court, with Brendan's legal team now supported by a number of influential people, according to Freedom for Brendan Dassey. That includes: former US Solicitor General and seasoned Supreme Court litigator, Mr Seth Waxman and his team from William, Cutler, Pickering, Hale and Dorr LLP based out of Washington D.C.
The last we heard was Brendan's writ of certiorari (meaning the appellate court decides to review a case at its discretion) was filed with the US Supreme Court on 20th February 2018.
So for now, we'll just need to wait and see.
Featured Image Credit: Netflix
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