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My Making a Murderer Story

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By Jax West

I watched ‘Making a Murderer’ on Netflix back in December and I have been obsessed ever since. I was immediately convinced of both Steven Avery and Brendan Dassey’s innocence. But please don’t tell me that I was swayed by a one-sided documentary. That is an insult of my intelligence. Why do the haters think they are guilty? Because two juries said they were? So what are your thoughts on O.J.?  A jury said he wasn’t guilty?  Have you ever served on a jury? I have. It was a joke. There were people who purposely dragged our deliberation out just so they could get the free meals. Someone else was going to let the guy go over what the legal definition of the word “possession”.  There is just so much wrong with our legal system that I don’t know where to begin. But again, don’t tell me I was swayed by a show, as I have also read all the transcripts and watched Brendan’s interrogations videos in their entirety. I have done my homework. Have you?

If there was credible evidence to prove that Steven and Brendan were guilty, I would say they were guilty. Why would I defend them otherwise? I don’t know them. I don’t have any stake on their guilt or innocence. People say they don’t know why I would get so involved in something that is just drama and has nothing to do with me. I am sorry but this is something that I feel is so horrible that I have to try to do something. ANYTHING.

Avery Trailer
Steven Avery’s trailer

 

After I watched MaM, I spent the next month reading and watching anything I could find on the case. I browsed through the Facebook groups, and I even went to Reddit for the first time ever and fell down that rabbit hole for quite some time. Then I saw on a Facebook Page that they were considering having a protest against Wiegert and Fassbender who were going to do a speaking engagement at a law enforcement convention in Naperville. Well, Zellner’s office is a town over to my right, Naperville is a town over to my left. I was in! I contacted the page and let them know I lived right there and would do anything they needed.

I was asked to find out if a permit was needed, etc.  So I called the Naperville Police Department. I was nervous about having a protest there as it is a big town and a RICH town. Penny Beernsten moved there for awhile too. But the Naperville PD were so nice about it. No permit needed. They gave me the run down of the do’s and don’ts. I was told to call them an hour before so they could protect our rights as well.

Sweet. GAME ON! My boyfriend owns a print shop in Naperville so I had him make flyers. I have an old friend on my Facebook and I knew her husband was involved in the Amanda Knox case. I didn’t know the extent of it. But I asked her if he would have any advice for me on doing a protest. He sure did and then some. He is a wealth of knowledge as he runs Injustice Anywhere.

Brendan Dassey is an Injustice Anywhere featured case. Bruce asked me if I would be part of a Brendan site he was planning on putting together. I don’t know how Bruce does it but he looks after multiple cases. I said I would be happy to do whatever he needed. So FreeBrendan.org was born. I currently write articles for the site and I do most of the posting on the Free Brendan Facebook page.

As it turned out, the Wiegert and Fassbender speaking engagement ended up being cancelled. I called both the venue and the Law Enforcement Agency to find out if it has been rescheduled. Both took down my name and number and said they would get back to me.

As time went on, I found my way into the Official Family Facebook Group. I started talking with the family spokesperson, Carla Chase, who is also Steven’s niece and Brendan’s cousin. I was surprised at how warm and inviting she was. After everything this family has been through you would think she wouldn’t talk to anyone. They have just been burned too many times.

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Avery Salvage Yard

We came across this petition on Facebook that a woman named Jenny Holden from the UK had created, titled “Brendan Dassey’s Law.” This was a brilliant idea and I don’t know why it isn’t a law already. I actually always thought it was. This law would prevent minors from being interrogated without a lawyer present. Getting a law passed is not an easy feat. This woman was working hard but the petition lacked clarity and it was not being presented in the United States where the requested law need would be enacted. So we contacted Jenny and we have now teemed up, bringing the petition to the US, in order to give it the best chance at success. Please take a moment to read, sign and share this petition here.

I attended Brendan’s lawyers free speaking engagement in Chicago.  You can read that recap here. We learned a lot about minors being coerced into confessing to things they didn’t do.  How the Reid Technique is just a horrible way to gauge how someone is lying.

I also attended the Strang/ Buting speaking engagement in Milwaukee.  You can read that recap here.

I had always thought until I saw Strang/ Buting that it was illegal to question a minor without a parent or lawyer present. I talked to my 22-year-old son afterwards and told him that no matter what the police question him about he has to tell them that he can’t talk without a lawyer. You just never know. I would have been just like Brendan. There are authority figures. We are told to respect them and you answer them when they ask you a question. I am 44-years-old. If a cop asks me something, I am going to answer it thinking if I asked for a lawyer I would be seen as guilty. So can you imagine being a scared 16-year-old boy? Brendan was no match for them and was led into incriminating himself for a crime he didn’t commit. It is heartbreaking.

We have recently found out that Ken Kratz has plans to hop on the MaM bandwagon in search of monetary gain. Kratz has a speaking engagement planned in Rockford, IL, with Jeanine Pirro of Faux News. Being that Rockford is only an hour or an hour and a half from my house, I thought it would be best to begin planning another protest. Your can view the details of our upcoming Ken Kratz protest on our Facebook event page.

Shortly after organizing the protest, I was asked by a confidential person to attend the Kratz protest to write up a recap like I have done for previous speaking engagements. I was so torn about that.  Kratz literally repulses me. What a horrible man. Not only did he convict two innocent men of crimes they didn’t commit, (and don’t get me started on how he can prosecute two people for the same crime but different circumstances… Was she killed in the trailer? The garage? Raped? Hair cut? Stabbed?  Throat slit? Shot? Huh?) but he is hardly a paragon of virtue. That man preyed on battered woman and forced them to have sex with him. And he says Brendan raped a girl? Puhlease! Then he blames it on prescription pills. Give me a break. He is certainly no prize.

I don’t want to see this disgusting man and I don’t want to give him any money. I want to be out their protesting this event. But, the person was right, I had written up Steven’s past lawyers and Brendan’s current lawyers, so I should see what Kratz has to say. The tickets had gone on sale at 10 am that morning. I bought tickets at 8 pm and got front row, center, seats 3 and 4.  So had only two seats sold that whole day?

Since my boyfriend owns a print shop, I asked Carla if they would be interested in selling a t-shirt that would benefit Brendan. We opened up to the members of the family group to come up with ideas for what it should say. They came up with some great ideas. We went with an orange shirt as it’s Brendan’s favorite color. The profits made on the sales of that shirt will go to Brendan’s canteen.  He can use that money to buy toiletries, snacks, books, etc. Then we designed another shirt and the profits from those sales will go to Brendan’s lawyers to use however it’s needed. You can order  shirts here.

Please don’t tell me that this is a way the family, or specifically Carla, is stealing money. I don’t know why this poor family is constantly being beaten up by people. They have been through so much.  More than many of us will ever go through. I see the complaints about gas cards being sent to Barb and Delores. Are you kidding me? I am not the only person that just wants to help any way I can. Some people want to help Delores and Barb since they have to drive to the prisons all the time. I see nothing wrong with that whatsoever. Is a person WANTS to do this, it’s their money and their right to do with it what they want with it.

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Now that brings me to this past weekend. I asked Carla if I could come up to the Avery Salvage yard because I just wanted to walk the Pam Sturm “Path of God” for myself.  I can not believe she was able to find that car in that salvage yard in under 20 minutes. Once again, this family, who has been burned by so many, gave me permission to come up.

We parked at the office and then started the Go Pro and started our walk to RAV4 location. We walked directly there. We weren’t stopping to look for our loved one or her vehicle. I know it’s spring but it was also really cold and windy so we were walking at a faster pace than we would have been if it was nice out. It took us about 7 minutes to get to the spot where the RAV4 was found. You can watch that video here:

By actually taking that walk for myself, it has convinced me that there is just no way Pam and Nikole Sturm were able to find the car in under 20 minutes without knowing where they were going. Just not possible. Plus I was told the majority of people, when they come to the office, begin their walk going in the opposite direction.

As I surveyed the land, I saw how a quarry backs right up to the area where the RAV4 was found. Since that time they have had to build up some berms to keep people out, but back then there were roads from the quarry that went right into the Salvage Yard. There would have been no way for anyone from the family residences to see someone entering that area. Unless your dumb enough to have headlights on or maybe see taillights as both Steven and Chuck Avery have said one night they saw lights on the other side of the Yard. If I lived there, and I killed someone and needed to get rid of a body quickly, I would most definitely put it out in that quarry. It looks like you could hide a lot of things out there.

And come on. You have a car crusher and instead you not only hide the car on your property but then you make it so it is the ONLY car with things leaning up on it to make it stick out like a sore thumb?  If you have a car crusher you are going to crush that thing down to a tiny box and then put it in another vehicle and crush that. No one would ever find it again. But no, Steven and Brendan hide the car on their property and then they drive up to Crivitz. Makes perfect sense to me.

Next thing to talk about is the bus driver. I know why Strang/ Buting pushed her timeline as she drives the same route every day so she is going to have a better idea of what time she was there.  But looking at where she drops the kids off and where Barb’s van was that Teresa Halbach was taking pictures of, there is no way the bus driver could see what was going on down there. It’s way too long of a stretch. You can look at my pictures of it. Keep in mind that back then the trees had leaves, there was tall corn on one side and cars parked all along the other. There’s just no way the bus driver saw Teresa taking pictures.

bus driver view

That brings us to the Burn Pit. Bravo to whomever from Manitowoc Sheriff’s Department that took the crime scene photos of that. It turns out that the Burn Pit is right behind Steven’s garage around 8 feet away from the building. Plus the propane tank was right there. Just not possible to have a 10-foot tall fire there. And if it was windy? The Salvage Yard is right behind there, so no trees = no windbreak. So you would be pushing the fire towards the garage. It Just didn’t happen.

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Burn Pit location
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Burn Pit location

The Avery family that I met last weekend were just the nicest, sweetest people. I met Carla, her husband Stacy, Barb and Chuck. It just renews my enthusiasm for this story and makes me want to do even more to help them. It really upsets me what has happened to this family. I am a white girl from a Chicago suburb. You hear stories of people being prejudiced against but it’s never truly affected my life. That’s why the phrase we have on one of the shirts is perfect. Think it can’t happen to you? Wrong! We all live on Avery Road. This can happen to anyone, anytime.

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What bothers to me the most about this case, is what happened to Brendan. As Bob Milan, at Brendan’s laywer’s speaking event, said, “everyone failed Brendan. The Sheriffs, the cops, his lawyer, the disgraced prosecutor, the judge.”

Don’t just sit back and do nothing when you see an injustice.  Get involved.  Have your voice heard.  Don’t just take what the press tells you at face value.

Please visit FreeBrendan.org to learn more about Brendan’s case. Also be sure to check out www.stevenaverycase.org to read through all of the evidence on Steven’s case.

Upcoming Events

Injustice Anywhere will be doing a radio show on Brendan’s case on April 12, in which I will be a guest. She show begins at 8 pm CDT and runs for about an hour. The show will be available in the Injustice Anywhere radio archive for those who can’t listen live. You can listen to the show live here.

There are protests being scheduled all over the globe, not just in the United States. Ireland and Australia both have protests in the works. There is a Facebook Group for people who want to be a part of planning a protest.  Feel free to join here.

Thank you for taking the time to read my long, rambling article. There are more in the works so make sure you check FreeBrendan.org or our Facebook Page for updates.

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A Recap of Brendan Dassey: A True Story of a False Confession

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By Jax West

This event was on April 6, 2016, at the Northwestern Pritzker School of Law in Chicago.  Brendan Dassey’s lawyers Steven Drizin (Clinical Professor of Law and the Assistant Dean of the Bluhm Legal Clinic) and Laura Nirider (Co-Director of the Center on Wrongful Convictions of Youth and Clinical Assistant Professor of Law) discussed his case and then were joined by Judge Michael K Browne (Hennepin County District Court Judge), Dr. Antoinette Kavanaugh (Ph.D, ABPP and Forensic Clinical Psychologist) and Robert Milan (Managing Director of Stroz Friedbeg and former First Assistant State’s Attorney of Cook County) for a Q&A. Here is my recap of the event.

It started at 6:30pm, but I was unfortunately late due to horrible traffic. When I got there I was told there probably weren’t two seats together but then it turned out there were plenty of seats together still left. But the auditorium was pretty packed as well. I sat down just as Steven Drizin was saying that he binged watched ‘Making a Murderer’. Then he introduced us to Sarah Marie Dillard and the Underground who performed the song ‘Bad Man’.

You can visit their website at www.smunderground.com. I challenge you to not tear up as you listen to the lyrics. Poor people lose all the time…

Drizin told us that he was asked in 2007 to represent Brendan Dassey. He had a student at that time that he assigned to work the case. She then replaced him as the Legal Director and is now the Lead Attorney for Brendan, Laura Nirider.

Nirider then went over the case starting with Steven’s first wrongful conviction. She said that Brendan was first questioned since he was Steven’s alibi. Now he sits in prison until he is 59 years old.  She believes his confession is false. Nirider said Brendan’s Mom Barb asked him if he did it. Then we saw the clip of Brendan telling his Mom that they got into his head.

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There are realities and myths of false confessions. There were three errors during the Police Investigation: Misclassification, Coercion and Contamination. The first one brings us to Behavioral Analysis and the infamous Reid Technique. This is taught to many law enforcement officials. It says the person is telling the truth if they have open palms, frontal alignment and smooth posture changes. You’re telling a lie if you slouch, lack frontal alignment, put your hand over your mouth or eyes, say I don’t know or I don’t recall, and refer to God.  So I guess you can use this against all of law enforcement who testified against Avery or Dassey or were deposed in Avery’s suit against Manitowoc County Sheriff’s Department because how many times were their answers “I don’t know” or “I don’t recall”?

Drizin said for the coercion error, the interrogator will say they know you committed this.  They will interrupt the suspect. They will move in close to the suspect and get knee to knee. They will even pat their knee. They will use false evidence ploys that are just outright lies. The Reid Technique was never to be used on children or someone mentally challenged. They ask leading questions to give the suspects the answers they are looking for.

Nirider said MaM did not show you that the interrogation we saw of Brendan was actually the fourth time they interrogated him over 48 hours. On 2/27/06 they went to Brendan’s High School and pulled him out of class and took him the principal’s office. They did not film this interrogation and there is only audio of this available that is sometimes hard to understand. You can listen to the entire thing here:

They would say to him that he must have seen things in that fire pit. You must have seen a hand, feet, head, something. Brendan eventually agreed and then said he saw a finger, foot and a forehead, the very things Investigators Weigert and Fassbender just planted in his head. Then they planted in his head that Teresa Halbach was assaulted.

Later on 2/27 they take Brendan to the Police Station. This time they videotape this. You can watch that here:

They had him now repeat everything they planted in his head at the earlier interrogation.

Finally they get him in the evening on 2/27 at a hotel they put him and his Mom in. They did NOT record this interrogation in any form.

Then on 3/1/2006 they pull him out of school and drive him 45 minutes away to the Police Station where they now get Brendan to confess to rape and murder. You can watch that here:

There is a report that says Brendan hasn’t been able to look an adult in the eye since the third grade. We were then shown more clips of Brendan’s interrogation. I am not going to recap them as there is only so much I can stand of those videos.  It is just too heartbreaking and infuriating to watch. Nirider shows how in that final interrogation Brendan is literally backed into a corner and the exit is blocked. They promise to help him.  Tell him over and over to be honest. They use a parental dynamic saying they are parents and have a son. They bring up Brendan’s mom.

Drizin said there are THREE FACTS not widely known about this case. law enforcement are supposed to hold back some facts of the case from a suspect. Brendan was not interrogated on February 28. What happened on the 28th? A report (Exhibit-91) came from the Crime Lab that said Teresa Halbach was shot in the head.  So they needed Brendan to give them that fact. Also the battery in the RAV4 was disconnected and Teresa’s belongings were in a burn barrel.

Then we saw clips of Weigert and Fassbender trying so hard to lead Brendan to these three things. Telling Brendan that something happened to the head. The crowd laughed loudly here and I get that they’re laughing at the idiocy of this but I am sorry, I just can’t find this funny. I literally had tears in my eyes. It saddens me so to see this innocent boy get manipulated by these authority figures. Then we see them ask who shot her in the head?  What did he do under the hood? Did he put some things in the burn barrel? What happened to her personal effects? Drizin said this is one of the worst cases of police interrogation practices he’s ever seen. There was not a shred of evidence that puts Brendan in that trailer. Do people really think Brendan was able to clean up so well as to not leave any trace?

The clip below shows Brendan’s interrogators trying to coach Brendan into telling them what happened to the victim’s head. The longer clip above does not contain this segment.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7G6ydccjyu0

We watched more clips. Brendan asking if he is only there for one day. He asks his Mom: “What if Steven’s story is different?” And when he tells his mom that they got to his head. Do you notice how Weigert and Fassbender immediately return to the room after Brendan says that and shuts down that conversation? Barb asks the officers if they were pressuring Brendan. They tell her they can tell when people tell the truth because they have been doing this for a long time. But the thing to take from this is as soon as Brendan is alone with his Mother he recants but once the officers walk in he gets quiet.  Brendan’s recantation was never shown the jury.

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So where are we today? Brendan’s case has been denied by the State, Appellate and Supreme Courts. It is now in Federal Court. They are contending that Brendan had ineffective assistance of counsel. Len Kachinsky used the confession against his client.  The confession was coerced and contaminated.

Then they went to a Q&A panel that included Judge Browne, Psychologist Kavanaugh and Former Cook County State’s Attorney Milan. They invited the audience to submit questions that might be answered. I submitted one that was not asked: How is it possible to convict two people for the same crime but using two different scenarios?

I lost a lot of interest during the panel section. I know this was an event for law students so maybe that’s why I lost interest as it was more general stuff and not directly about Brendan’s case. A lot of people kept getting up to leave at this point so it was hard to stay focused too.

They talked about what can be done to prevent juvenile false confessions. Nirider said the International Chiefs of Police are working on something. When I hear that organization I cringe though as they are having a convention in Naperville that I was setting up to protest as they were scheduled to have Weigert and Fassbender speak on the great job they think they did on the Brendan Dassey case. They have since cancelled the event so the protest isn’t happening.

Nirider said they should never make promises of help or tell them they get to go home if they tell the truth. They should never disclose facts of the crime and shouldn’t talk to a minor without a parent or lawyer present.

Drizin said interrogations should be electronically recorded. Their own protocols were violated by feeding Brendan facts and promising to help him. The Police Officers are not lie detectors even though they claim to be due to how long they’ve been on the job. He likes the PEACE Technique. He said it’s an acronym and wasn’t going into what it stands for.  Here is a link where you can read about both the Reid and Peace Techniques: https://www.cga.ct.gov/2014/rpt/2014-R-0071.htm

Drizin said Buting and Strang were the best laywers Avery could buy. Len Kachinsky was the best Brendan got and he was only paid $40 an hour to defend him. You actually lose money to take this case on.  But once again, poor people lose all the time.

They talked about Ken Kratz’s press conference. Milan said that was outrageous and you aren’t allowed to do that in Illinois. He said you can’t lay out all those details.  What bothered him is that no judge stepped in.  He said everybody messed up in this case.  Nobody stepped up and did the right thing.

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They were asked, why wasn’t Brendan’s Mom Barb in the interview? Drizin said it is not a requirement in Wisconsin that a parent be present. He said Barb is a pitbull in how she defends her son now. She was not given the information back then on how to help Brendan.  They told her they were just going to ask him a few questions so she gave them permission and has had to live with that all these years.  Drizin is not confident that Barb could have protected Brendan had she been in the room anyway.  Parents are powerless and too often do more harm than good. So a lawyer should be in there.

Nirider said that there are States that are now considering changes that a parent or a lawyer needs to be present: Tennessee, Rhode Island, and California. Milan thinks that Barb would have stopped the interrogation had she been in there and that she wasn’t there because the cops didn’t allow her to be. He said the cops knew they were on tape and they still behaved that way.  He said they’re moronic.

At the end they mentioned how they are doing the event for free because they feel it’s important for people to hear. Strang and Buting are out on their speaking tour charging big money.  I went to the one in Milwaukee and you can read that recap here: http://www.freebrendan.com/index.php/2016/03/19/a-recap-of-a-conversation-on-making-a-murderer-with-attorneys-dean-strang-jerry-buting/

I will also be attending their Chicago event in June and will recap that one as well.

Everyone groaned when Dirzin mentioned that Kratz is also doing a speaking engagement. I have scheduled a protest of that event and you can RSVP to the Facebook Event here: https://www.facebook.com/events/779417248856029/

So that was it. What do we do now? We are stuck waiting on our legal system to do the right thing.  But while we wait, let’s get something going to change our laws so minors can not be interrogated without a lawyer present.  There are protests being scheduled all across the globe.  Get involved.  Have your voice heard.  To find out more about Brendan Dassey please visit http://www.freebrendan.com/ or find us on https://www.facebook.com/freebrendan/

Brendan Dassey, Chris Tapp, and the Agentic State

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Brendan Dassey and Chris Tapp

By Jim Lovering April 6, 2016

In 1961, a Yale scientist carried out an experiment that quickly achieved notoriety verging on infamy. No one suffered direct harm, but test subjects learned something about themselves they might not have wanted to know.

To perform the experiment, Stanley Milgram recruited dozens of volunteers, ordinary people from all walks of life. He told them they were participating in a study to assess how punishment affects learning. Test subjects believed they were doling out electric shocks to a volunteer who was physically restrained in another room. They were told to increase the voltage with each wrong answer.

Only later did these subjects learn the setup was rigged, and no one really got shocked. The purpose of the Milgram experiment was to test obedience to authority, and the results were alarming. No less than 65 percent of the subjects completed the experiment, turning up the voltage and flipping the switch until they were told to stop. They continued even after the man in the other room began to shout, complain of a heart problem, and beg to be released. They continued even after he fell silent and did not respond at all to the questions.

No one forced them to go on. They did it simply because the man directing the experiment told them to continue.

Milgram’s research followed from an earlier study that was designed to test social conformity. Groups of people assembled in a room, where an examiner held up simple diagrams and asked a question for which the correct answer was obvious: which two lines are the same length?

Only one member of each group was a test subject, although he or she did not know that. Everyone else played a scripted role.

The researcher found that when scripted participants all gave the same wrong answer, many of the test subjects gave that answer too. Over many rounds of questioning, only about 25 percent of the test subjects consistently defied the group by giving the correct answers.

In the wake of this early research, similar experiments have confirmed how easy it is to manipulate someone in a controlled setting, without resorting to force or intimidation. People will do things that seem baffling to anyone who did not go through the experience.

It is not really surprising, therefore, that Brendan Dassey confessed to a crime he did not commit. He was a 16-year-old kid with an IQ of about 70. Who could possibly be more susceptible to trickery?

Police realized they were dealing with an easy mark, so they used a subtle but effective form of psychological coercion. Instead of browbeating Dassey, they pretended to be his friends. They began the interview by saying “how are you doing, buddy?”

They told Dassey his best interests lay in cooperating with them, and they led him to believe he had nothing to fear.

“By you talking with us, it’s helping you.”

“We’re on your side.”

“We’ll stand behind you no matter what you did.”

They stressed the importance of honesty, but they also told Dassey, over and over, that they already knew the truth – they had the right answers.

“We already know what happened that day.”

“We’re going to be able to tell when you’re not being honest.”

In fact, Dassey did not help himself by talking to police. They were not on his side, and they did not stand behind him. Police used a framework of lies and deception to play a dull-witted teenager against himself, to coax him into telling the fable they wanted to hear. It worked exactly as a social scientist would have predicted.

To those who follow wrongful convictions, the approach used with Dassey is far from unique. Steve Drizin, an expert on false confessions, called it “the help theme” in a recent media interview. Drizin is involved in Dassey’s case, and he is also involved in an Idaho case where police used the same approach on another suspect.

In 1997, a young man named Chris Tapp confessed to the brutal murder of a teenage girl with whom he was acquainted. His videotaped statements, like those of Brendan Dassey, evolved under the guidance of a police detective who presented himself as a sympathetic adviser. In an interrogation process that spanned many days, he and his colleagues led Tapp to believe they would protect him no matter what he said. They advised Tapp that his own best interest lay in telling the story they wanted to hear.

Initially, police got Tapp to accuse someone else whom they suspected. Then they got him to admit he was present when the murder took place. Eventually Tapp went along with a grotesque scenario in which he and two other men simultaneously raped the victim before killing her. Tapp was convicted of murder on the basis of his statements, and he remains in prison to this day.

Was Tapp really involved in this murder? No. His confession bears no resemblance to the crime that actually took place. Everything points to a single perpetrator who acted alone. The victim was not raped, but the killer did leave behind a complete DNA profile. This profile has never been matched to anyone. It does not match Tapp, nor does it match any of the other people whom Tapp was set up to accuse. Tapp was unable to name the perpetrator who left DNA at the crime scene. He really knew nothing about the murder except what was fed to him by police.

Mike Heavey, a retired Seattle judge, has formed an organization called Judges for Justice, which is publicly supporting the effort to overturn Tapp’s conviction.

Heavey has put together a lengthy video that shows exactly how police manipulated Tapp by gaining his trust and pitching themselves as advocates who were looking out for his interests. For those who have become consumed by Making a Murderer, it is well worth watching:

A shorter video, summarizing the case, is also available on Youtube:

It might be reassuring to imagine that cases like this are rare. Unfortunately they are common, as reflected in a growing number of exonerations brought about by post-conviction DNA testing or careful review. Many cases involve egregious conduct by public officials.

Viewers of Making a Murderer have been driven to fury, especially after watching excerpts from Dassey’s interrogation. Where is common sense in all of this? How can anyone believe Dassey raped and stabbed a woman in a room where no trace of her blood or DNA was found? Why didn’t anyone put a stop to this travesty?

Stanley Milgram, haunted by the implications of his own research, suggested an answer to these questions. He realized the potential for malice resides in ordinary people. Its emergence depends on circumstances as much as character. Police conducting an interrogation may perceive themselves as agents, serving the aims of the organization they represent, without feeling the burden of personal responsibility. As they see it, they are simply doing their job. Ruthless manipulation of a suspect is like flipping the switch to deliver an electric shock. Milgram called this the “agentic state.”

The research that helps explain Brendan Dassey’s confession thus sheds a light on the conduct of public officials as well. In the bleak annals of wrongful conviction, the agentic state looms as a real and pervasive phenomenon. We see it again and again. Once the criminal justice system takes the position that someone is guilty of a crime, especially in a high profile case where public credibility is at stake, individuals within the system will usually do whatever it takes to sustain that position. They refuse to admit the possibility of error. They embrace any ploy or strategy that serves their purpose. They treat exculpatory facts, no matter how compelling, as a problem to be overcome.

Long before scientists began to map these patterns of human behavior, political and legal theorists grasped the pitfalls of criminal justice and considered how to avoid them. In every open society, criminal defendants enjoy the right to a public trial. This right is enshrined in the U.S. Constitution. It is a vital safeguard to individual liberties, because public oversight makes it harder for zealous officials to railroad innocent people.

The catch is that the public must pay attention, and must not assume the authorities always know what they are doing. Because of Making a Murderer, the public is paying close attention to Brendan Dassey’s case. He is quite obviously the victim of a grave injustice. So are Chris Tapp and countless other innocent people who are stuck behind bars. Many of their stories can be found on the Injustice Anywhere forum.

Everyone is welcome to sign up and join the discussion at Injustice Anywhere. The purpose of the forum is to discuss action steps on behalf of specific individuals who have been wrongfully convicted, and to raise awareness of an overall problem. We recognize that much of the time, the court system functions as intended – but not always. Sometimes the agentic state runs amok. In Milgram’s words, “people do what they are told to do, irrespective of the content of the act and without meditation of the conscience.”* Those are the cases we examine on Injustice Anywhere. When criminal prosecution devolves into an elaborate Milgram experiment, it’s time for outsiders to step in and demand a different protocol, one that reflects fact and reason. Criminal justice is the public’s business.

 

* This is how Milgram described his findings in a documentary film called Obedience. The context is as follows: “The results, as I observed them in the laboratory, are disturbing. They raise the possibility that human nature cannot be counted on to insulate man from brutality and inhumane treatment at the direction of malevolent authority. A substantial portion of people do what they are told to do, irrespective of the content of the act and without meditation of the conscience, so long as they perceive that the command comes from a legitimate authority. If in this study, an anonymous experimenter could successfully command adults to subdue a 50-year-old man and force on him painful electric shocks against his protests, one can only wonder what government, with its vastly greater authority and prestige, can command of its subjects.”

 

Are We Making Murderers? False Confessions and Coercive Interrogation

art1_fmtIllinois Bar Journal

By Ed Finkel

It’s no secret that criminal suspects in Illinois and elsewhere confess to crimes they didn’t commit, often after aggressive police interrogation. But how widespread is involuntary confession in the post-Jon Burge era, and what’s being done to address it?

The Netflix docu-series Making a Murderer, which tells the story of two men convicted of a 2005 rape and murder to which they later said one of them was coerced into confessing, has brought not only this case but the issues surrounding it into a prime-time spotlight.

Steven Avery and his mentally challenged nephew, Brendan Dassey, were convicted of the rape and murder of Teresa Halbach after Dassey, then 16, confessed. The Northwestern University Center on Wrongful Convictions of Youth took up the case and has followed it through a Wisconsin appellate court denial of appeal and the state’s supreme court’s refusal to hear it.

The case is now pending in federal court, with this most recent appeal based on constitutional issues that include whether the interrogation tactics used against Dassey resulted in what amounted to an involuntary confession. (Downers Grove lawyer Kathleen Zellner now represents Avery.) And that issue of involuntary confessions – obtained not through Jon Burge-like physical torture but what some view as coercive psychological techniques – is the subject of ongoing debate, along with some areas of agreement, among defense attorneys and prosecutors. Read More »

A Recap of “A Conversation on ‘Making a Murderer’” with Attorneys Dean Strang & Jerry Buting

strang and butingWritten by Jax West

If you’re reading this, then you have most likely become obsessed with the Netflix 10-episode documentary, ‘Making a Murderer’, just like me. I came across it on accident in December of 2015 not knowing anything about it. I was instantly hooked and binged the entire thing in one night. I then started searching for more information on the Internet to find out what wasn’t included in the documentary. I even fell down the Reddit rabbit hole for a few days. I contributed money to StevenAveryCase.org to get all the documents, pictures, interrogations released for all to have access to. I traveled three hours to go see the Avery Salvage yard, quarry, and Zipperer house for myself. I have joined countless Facebook groups. I even went so far as to reach out to Steven Avery’s current lawyer because her office is literally five minutes from my house and offered to be her gopher for free. My goal is to help in any way needed. But enough about me. Let’s get to what you really want to know about.

I attended “A Conversation on ‘Making a Murderer’” with Attorneys Dean Strang and Jerry Buting, on March 18, 2016, at Riverside Theater in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. It is about a 90 minute drive from my home. The doors opened at 7 pm and I was there. The lawyers were introduced and interviewed by Mitch Teich, from WUWM Lake Effect Radio. It started at 8:09 pm. They sat on the stage in some chairs with the spotlight on them. There was a big screen behind them that showed the courthouse. I took two pages of notes in the dark and will now go over the highlights here.

The attorneys said they would not talk about anything that was covered by client/ attorney privilege. They are doing this tour because they are inundated with questions about the case. Dean is NOT on social media and doesn’t plan to ever be. You can find Jerry at @Jbuting on Twitter. Jerry has been practicing law for 30 years and Dean is coming up on 28 years. They were told that this was the biggest criminal case in Wisconsin history.

Why did they take the case? Dean said Steven Avery was the most detested man in Wisconsin. A lawyer wants to do public good. He doesn’t want to sound corny. Dean also said publicity brings business.

Jerry said it is not common for two lawyers from two different firms to try the same case together. Dean said Jerry is better than him at scientific and forensic evidence. He joked that Jerry is not abrasive like people have said. Dean said they were good cop/bad cop.

Jerry said they were both wary of the “Making a Murderer” (MaM) project when they took the case. Dean said one of the filmmakers is also a lawyer so she knew not to film things that were privilege, etc. He said the filmmakers kept their word with them. Jerry said no scenes were scripted and they weren’t told questions in advance. They were good at being a fly on the wall. So he and Jerry would brainstorm with each other with them there.

Jerry and Dean stayed in two private, furnished apartments that were on top of each other. They talked about the scene of Ash Wednesday. Jerry said he and Dean are Catholic and so are the Halbachs, so they made sure to find a church that wouldn’t interfere with the family. They had the ashes on their foreheads when the filmmakers joined them and asked if they wanted to wipe the ashes off first but they told them no because that’s not what you do.

Jerry said there were a lot of negative vibes towards him and Dean in town. They know that’s part of the job. They did their best to stay away from the Halbach family.

Dean wishes the prosecutors had worked with the filmmakers. Jerry said he had no idea they would refuse to cooperate. He said the filmmakers did what they could. That’s why they would show the questions from the press.

Jerry didn’t want to do press conferences everyday but the special prosecutor said he would be doing one every other day and Mike Halbach would be doing the other days so they had to do them to give a balanced side. Dean said they got the prosecution to agree to only talk about that day of the case only in case the jurors were cheating.

Jerry said they had no editorial control of MaM. He joked that he only had eight Twitter followers prior to the documentary. Jerry watched it a week before it premiered on Netflix. Dean watched it after it aired. He said he lived it and wasn’t eager to watch it. Jerry said he had to talk to Steven before it aired but he did not binge watch it.

Dean said someone lost their life and the family had a hole torn in them that will never close. He said the rape victim (Penny Beerntsen) never intended to get it wrong and that this case brings it all back up for her.

3Jerry said this was the most difficult case he’s had to disengage from. For the judge to say Steven was probably the most dangerous man that has ever been in his courtroom was difficult for him to accept. Dean said Steven is one of two clients he has had that is serving life without the possibility of parole. He said you carry this with you. He said life without the possibility of parole wasn’t available in Wisconsin until 1990 and was supposed to almost never be used and instead it is widely used. He said it’s a social death sentence. They’d rather be executed then have no hope of parole while in a cage.

Dean said when you believe your client is innocent it makes it easier. Many guilty people say they’re innocent.

Dean asked, where was the blood? They ripped up the carpet and took the paneling off the wall. Nothing they said in the press conference happened.

Dean said some lawyers want to win for the sake of winning. He thinks the system needs to be stricter on what lawyers can say. Not the media. But the lawyers. Jerry said the vast majority of prosecutors don’t do these kinds of press conferences. For Kratz to start out by saying if you’re under 15 you should leave the room, everyone just turns up the volume. He said they said a lot worse in that press conference than the documentary showed. Like claiming they knew what the poor woman was saying. It sickened you.

Jerry said they can take your child out of class to interrogate you and they do it every day. He said guilty people assert their Miranda Rights. Dean said if this was 1976 instead of 2006 Brendan would probably be taken to Juvenile Court and they would protect his childhood. But it was 2006.

Then they talked about The Reid Technique. Here is how Wikipedia defines it:

The Reid Technique is a method of questioning suspects to try to assess their credibility. Supporters argue that the Reid Technique is useful in extracting information from otherwise unwilling suspects, while critics have charged the technique can elicit false confessions from innocent persons, especially children.

Jerry said it was designed in the 1950’s and 90% of police in the country are trained on it. It connects anxiety to lying. They will make them anxious and then tell them they are lying. They will give them a polygraph and then lie to them and tell them they failed it. They will say the machine doesn’t lie, you do. The police can lie about evidence. The courts have lost sight of the fact that vulnerable individuals will give false confessions. Most people say they would never confess to a crime they didn’t commit, but the police will not accept their denials and lie to them. Then the accused will come up with a lie (in an attempt to appease their interrogators) and then they don’t remember it and get tripped up and the jury hears that, instead of the statements they had previously repeated over and over again before being pressured to change their story. Dean said they claim false evidence like they have your fingerprints or your buddy said you thought it up. They think they won’t be believed in court and will get more time so they lie. Jerry said they used to be held incommunicado and beat. Now they have the Reid Technique which is psychological.

Jerry said the filmmakers tried to capture the big items that were in dispute; the blood, the magic key, the bones, and the burn pit. They had to leave things out. Like the “sweat” DNA on the hood latch. Jerry wanted us to know that there is NO SUCH THING AS SWEAT DNA. Kratz tried to say it wasn’t from blood so it was from sweat. But their expert didn’t do the presumptive test. Jerry said they had an answer for all that. The prosecution analyst was in the car moments earlier and didn’t change their gloves before touching the hood latch.

The documentary did leave out defense evidence too. The bone evidence and where the body was burned was not discussed. The State said the rivet was from Daisy Fuentes jeans that are sold at Kohls. They used a magnet but didn’t find the big metal button that buttoned up the jeans anywhere. So she was burned somewhere else. But the filmmakers had to make editorial decisions.

Dean wished they could have shown jury selection. They spent a week doing that. But then there was the press conference before the case. He is not critical of the omission and knows that prospective jurors and current jurors can not be filmed.

The attorneys talked for awhile about jury duty. Jerry said he was called once but was disqualified and then brought into chambers so he didn’t say anything to anyone else. He asked how can the jury not find reasonable doubt? He said if you won’t serve then you can’t be critical. He said it’s typically retired and young people who serve. So it’s not a jury of your peers that you’re entitled to.

The poor always lose. Jerry said Wisconsin has a good public defender program and 70% of cases go through that. Then the rest go to lawyers who are only paid $40 an hour. Wisconsin has the lowest paid attorneys in the country and he thinks it’s time to raise that rate. Dean said 80% of people are too poor to pay for a lawyer and to be poor is to be presumed a criminal.

Jerry said he tries to be sensitive to the victims but it is not his role to defend them. They are revictimized when convicting the wrong person while the real perpetrator gets away with it. Dean says he tries to make sure to not take away their humanity.

Jerry likes that the documentary portrays the pain and anguish the defendants’ family goes through. Jerry said he does embrace being a role model of defense attorneys with integrity when you usually only see them portrayed as sleazebags.

Jerry wants us to know that the “perp walk,” where they are in black and white stripes, shackled, and wearing mitts, are staged events that law enforcement does to show they are guilty and dangerous. Jerry cautions that people shouldn’t prejudge that, even if we hear they have supposedly confessed.

How can we help? Dean said there are lots of charitable groups you can donate your time or money to. He suggests we take this conversation home and simply talk about it. He said democracy begins in conversation.

This is where it ended at 9:48 pm. I will say I greatly enjoyed it. I will be going to it again when it comes to Chicago in June, and I am going to see Brendan’s current lawyers talk in Chicago in April. This case has changed my complete outlook on our justice system. It is sad but I had to tell my 22-year-old son if he is every questioned by the police for ANY reason to say he can’t talk until there is a lawyer present. Until MaM I thought if I am innocent that it is much easier if I just explain, and if I ask for a lawyer then I am thought of as guilty. Now I know differently. It doesn’t matter what you look like, where you’re from, or who you are. We are ALL potential Steven and Brendans.

One last thing before I let you go. We are staging a protest against the two officers who coerced Brendan into giving a false confession by using the Reid Technique. The two are speaking at a law enforcement convention in Naperville, Illinois on April 26. It starts at 10 am, and is at the NIU Conference Center located at 1120 East Diehl Road. If you would like to attend, please RSVP to the Facebook event here:

https://www.facebook.com/events/444854442391232/

If you want to talk about this case you can do so here:

http://www.freebrendan.com/

For more about the tour you can visit their official page here:

http://conversationonjustice.com/

Remember:   Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice AVERYwhere!

4

Wisconsin lawyers on ‘Making a Murderer’ — ‘I almost got physically ill’

kachinsky
Len Kachinsky

Making a Murderer” is officially a hit on Netflix for it’s portrayal of murder in a small county in Wisconsin.

The 10-part documentary is harrowing to watch as it follows the murder of 25-year-old Teresa Halbach and her accused killers, Steven Avery and Brendan Dassey. It’s filled with moments where viewers may find themselves questioning the actions of the police officers, the evidence itself, and the justice system at large.

If you haven’t seen the 10-episode docuseries yet, you may want to stop reading and watch the full story first to avoid any spoilers.

One of the most shocking moments in the documentary is when Len Kachinsky, the newly appointed public defender for 16-year-old Dassey, sends his private investigator Michael O’Kelly to give Dassey a polygraph test as well as to get a written confession.

During this meeting, O’Kelly gives Dassey a form to fill out about his involvement in the crime. When Dassey writes a “confession” proclaiming his innocence, O’Kelly then makes him rewrite his version of events and even goes so far as to make the learning-impaired teenager draw diagrams of the rape and murder, which are later used against him in his trial. Read More »

Photo Exhibits

These photographs come from the Steven Avery trial. We have posted these photos here because they pertain to the Brendan Dassey case as well.

Avery Family Property

Steven Avery Trailer

Where Key Was Allegedly Found

Fire Pit and Barrels

Teresa Halbach’s RAV4

Steven Avery’s Garage

Charred Remains

Evidence Collection


You can find more photographs and other evidence exhibits from the Steven Avery Trial at: 

http://www.stevenaverycase.org

Brendan Dassey’s Defense Arguments

Steve Drizin and Laura Nirider, attorneys for Northwestern’s Center of Wrongful Convictions of Youth, and attorney Robert Dvorak are co-counsel for Brendan Dassey’s post-conviction litigation. Brendan’s legal options have been exhausted. On October 2, 2019, Brendan’s attorney Laura Nirider announced that she has filed a petition for executive clemency with Governor Tony Evers of Wisconsin. Brendan’s attorneys have set up a website for people to show their support.

Brendan’s defense is clear cut. His attorneys argue that Brendan’s interrogators extracted a false confession from him by use of coercion. You can read more about Brendan’s coerced false confession here: Brendan Dassey’s false confession

Brendan’s attorneys also argue that their client had inadequate counsel. From the moment Brendan’s public defender, Len Kachinsky, took the case, he worked against his client, attempting to get Brendan to confess to the crime. Kachinsky stated publicly that he felt his client was guilty and that there was “no defense” for him. You can read more about Brendan’s attorney here: Bad lawyering

Dean Strang discusses Making a Murderer at Westside Bar Association Event

Dean Strang discusses Making a Murderer, sponsored in part by the National Center for Audio and Video Forensics. Thank you to Lou Shapiro and the Westside Bar Association for organizing this event and for including us. If you have video, audio, or still image evidence — for example, from surveillance cameras, smartphones, officer dash cams, dispatch audio, or 911 calls — contact us to investigate, enhance, and analyze how your digital media may impact your case.

NCAVF also testifies in court as an expert witness to talk about the video, audio, or still image analysis that we did, to be used as evidence in your trial. See some samples here on YouTube and also on our website, NCAVF.com

Steven Avery Trial Transcripts and Documents

720x405-makin_pds_006_hStevenAveryCase.org was created in January 2016 by Skipp Topp and friends, and was made possible thanks to sponsors who contributed money through a crowdfunding campaign. As of February 22, 2016 they have 247 exhibit photos and 360 documents from the case file, totaling over 13,300 pages. The site is a great resource for viewing and downloading case files for Steven Avery’s case.

StevenAveryCase.org