The murder confession of a man featured in the Netflix series Making a Murderer was coerced and he should be released from prison, an appeal court has ruled.
Brendan Dassey, 27, was sentenced to life behind bars in 2007 over photographer Teresa Halbach’s death two years earlier. Dassey told detectives he helped his uncle, Steven Avery, rape and kill Halbach in the Avery family’s Manitowoc County salvage yard.
A federal magistrate judge ruled in August that investigators coerced Dassey, who was 16 at the time and suffered from cognitive problems, into confessing.
The state Justice Department appealed the ruling to the 7th US Circuit Court of Appeals. A three-judge panel from the 7th Circuit on Thursday affirmed the lower court and said Dassey should be freed unless the state of Wisconsin chooses to retry him.
Meanwhile a lawyer acting on behalf of Avery has called for a new trial, alleging Halbach may have been killed by her ex-boyfriend and not the man jailed for her death.
Kathleen Zellner says Avery’s conviction was based on planted evidence and false testimony in a 1,272-page document, the first 220 pages of which are available to view on her website.
She contends Avery deserves a new trial “in the interests of justice” and because “the real controversy was never tried,” USA Today Network-Wisconsin reported.
The document filed by Zellner alleges Halbach had an “abusive” relationship with her former lover and that “jealousy was the motive.”
She also claims the ex-partner continued to have a romantic interest in Halbach which was not reciprocated and that he continued to pursue her after she began a relationship with another man.
The papers allege the ex-boyfriend “had sustained visible injuries to his hands, from fingernail scratches, around the time of her disappearance.”
Zellner adds: “Ms Halbach’s ex-boyfriend initially gave the police a false name, minimised his relationship with her, lied about crime scene evidence, controlled and led the searchers to Ms Halbach’s vehicle, had unrestricted access to the Avery property to plant evidence.”