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The Key Reason Brendan Dassey’s Lawyer, Laura Nirider, Believes His Confession Was False


At the University of St. Thomas School of Law on Monday, Brendan Dassey’s lawyer explained why she believes his confession was fabricated. On April 25, 2007, Dassey was convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole. The Netflix doucseries Making a Murderer’s portrayal of the Manitowoc County Sheriff’s office’s treatment of the then-16-year-old, who was on the cusp intellectual disability, sparked speculation that the interrogation leading to his confession wasn’t fair to him. (The sheriff’s department has long maintained that its methods were by the book.) According to Dassey’s lawyer Laura Nirider, who was also featured in the series, a simple fact de-legitimizes his confession: Dassey was interrogated and perceived as if he were an adult, not a child. Read More »

Brendan Dassey’s False Confession

Lead investigators Mark Wiegart and Tom Fassbender

Brendan Dassey was questioned numerous times by detectives leading up to his arrest. He attracted the attention of investigators because he lived on the same property as his uncle, Steve Avery, who had been arrested for the murder of Teresa Halbach.

Brendan’s first recorded interview was conducted on November 6, 2005. An audio recording is available for that interview below. Brendan’s subsequent interviews were all video taped. These videos clearly show that Brendan was coerced into giving answers to his interrogators. He is often clueless as to what the detectives are talking about, and waits for them to feed him information about the crime. Brendan was an intellectually challenged teenage boy being questioned about a horrific rape and murder, with no parent or lawyer present. When Brendan dares to question the detectives’ version of events, they repeatedly tell him to stop lying. To add further pressure, they tell him that his mother wants him to cooperate. Whenever Brendan confirms something the detectives say, they use it to coax him on. They tell him repeatedly that they already know the truth, and if he confirms what they already know, they will leave him alone. They lie to Brendan, claiming that they are there to help him and that he will not get into any trouble, just as long as he tells them what they want to hear.

After “confessing” to rape and murder, Brendan asks detectives how much longer the questioning will take because he has a school project to turn in during his afternoon period. At that moment in time, Brendan actually thinks he will be able to go back to school. It is disturbingly clear that Brendan did not understand the seriousness of the situation he was in. The interrogators, which can be viewed in the videos below, took advantage of a 16-year-old boy with a cognitive impairment. It is shameful that Brendan Dassey’s interrogation was allowed to be used at trial. Without Brendan’s false confession, there is absolutely no case against him. The process of determining whether or not to grant Brendan Dassey a new trial starts and ends with his coerced false confession.

Brendan Dassey Audio Interview November 6, 2005

Brendan Dassey Police Interrogation February 26, 2006

Brendan Dassey Police Interrogation. March 1, 2006. Part 1

Brendan Dassey Police Interrogation. March 1, 2006. Part 2

Brendan Dassey Police Interrogation. March 1, 2006. Part 3

Brendan Dassey Police Interrogation. May 13, 2006. Part 1

Brendan Dassey Police Interrogation. May 13, 2006. Part 2


False Confession Resources

False Confessions

A Closer Look at Brendan Dassey’s Interrogation & Confession



Netflix “Making a Murderer”

Netflix “Making a Murderer Season Two”

Netflix “Making a Murderer”

The Netflix series Making a Murderer is a ten-part documentary, written and directed by Laura Ricciardi and Moira Demos. The series follows the Teresa Halbach murder case from the beginning up until present day. The series, filmed over the course of ten years, details the trials of both Steven Avery and Brendan Dassey. Avery is the primary focus of the series, based on his past history with the law. Avery served 18 years in prison as an innocent man for the sexual assault and attempted murder of Penny Beerntsen, before being fully exonerated in 2003. His exoneration came just two years prior to being charged with the murder of Halbach, in the same county, by the same sheriff’s office that had previously caused him to lose nearly two decades of his life. The series leaves viewers to wonder if the authorities who wronged him the first time, set out to frame him once again in an attempt to avoid paying out millions of dollars to settle a civil suit resulting from his wrongful conviction.

The series makes for compelling television, not only due to the legal aspects of the case, but also due to the extensive footage covering the Avery family. The Averys (sadly as it may be due to their circumstances) are entertaining to watch. The entertainment factor may cause some who watch the series to forget that the documentary is dealing with real people. The story of Teresa Halbach is a tragedy that was compounded by a failed investigation of her disappearance and death.

Steven Avery’s first wrongful conviction jeopardized public safety by allowing the real perpetrator to remain free. When the authorities finally discovered who actually committed the crime, it was too late. When investigators set out to find the person who matched the DNA collected at the time of the crime, they discovered that the real perpetrator, Gregory Allen, was in prison serving 60 years for an unrelated assault which took place after Avery’s wrongful conviction. Has history repeated itself? Has Teresa Halbach’s murderer (or murderers) been left free to murder again?

Making a Murderer Trailer

Brendan Dassey Case Synopsis

Brendan Dassey

By Jim Lovering

Brendan Dassey was wrongfully convicted of murder on the basis of a coerced confession to the rape and murder of Teresa Halbach. No other evidence supports his conviction, and physical evidence flatly contradicts the statements in which he incriminated himself.

At the time he confessed, Dassey was 16 years old, with an IQ of about 70. He had no criminal record, and he was not a trouble maker. Police initially turned their attention to him because he was a defense witness for another man (Steven Avery) whom they had accused of murdering Halbach. In his initial statement to police, Dassey gave a mundane and plausible account of his activities on the day Halbach disappeared. He did not in any way incriminate himself, and he provided a partial alibi for Avery.

A few months after police charged Avery, they brought Dassey in for intensive questioning. Video recordings show they adopted a friendly, solicitous manner and quickly brought Dassey under their control. He was willing to go along with any story line they suggested, but he volunteered almost no information. Instead, through a series of vague, tentative answers to leading questions, he agreed to a gruesome narrative composed by police.

In this narrative, Dassey and Avery raped and repeatedly stabbed Halbach in Avery’s bedroom, while she was chained to a bed. Forensic tests, however, revealed no trace of the victim’s blood, fingerprints or DNA in this room, or, for that matter, anywhere in Avery’s residence. Nor was any physical trace of Dassey’s presence found in the room or in Avery’s residence. Police photos show that the premises are undisturbed except for ordinary clutter. Not one scrap of physical evidence suggests that a bloody assault took place there.

Police knew the victim had been killed with multiple gunshots to the head. They tried to elicit a statement to this effect from Dassey, because this would seem to corroborate his confession. They told Dassey that Avery had done something to the victim’s head, and asked him what it was. Dassey responded that Avery had cut her hair. No matter how many times police asked what else Avery had done to the victim’s head, they drew a blank. Finally they told Dassey that Halbach had been shot in the head, at which point he agreed.

A review of Dassey’s police interrogations shows he did not begin to understand the gravity of his situation. He was gullible and pliant. He acquiesced to a murder scenario that could not possibly have transpired.

When Avery was tried for murder, prosecutors did not call Dassey as a witness, because they presented a theory of the crime that did not fit Dassey’s statements.

After Avery was convicted, however, Dassey was tried and convicted in a separate proceeding. In Dassey’s trial, prosecutors put forth a much different theory of the same crime. They ignored the physical evidence and focused instead on Dassey’s incriminating statements.

The circumstances of this outlandish case have been extensively documented in the Netflix series Making a Murderer. Steven Avery’s claim to innocence is based on the allegation that police planted incriminating physical evidence. Dassey’s claim is more straightforward. Nothing links him to Halbach’s murder except the garbled statements he made under duress, which he has long since recanted. Physical evidence proves he is innocent of the crime for which he was convicted.

Laura Nirider Talks More About False Confessions

Laura Nirider of Northwestern University’s Center on Wrongful Convictions of Youth gives her views on how the interrogation process can sometimes lead young people to falsely confess. Presentation at Washington and Lee University’s False Confessions Symposium on 1/31/14.

Dassey juror believes he deserves new trial

Brendan Dassey

MADISON (WKOW) — A Madison man who served on the jury in the murder trial of Steven Avery’s teenage nephew, Brendan Dassey tells 27 News Dassey deserves a new trial because his mental competence was in question, and his public defenders failed him.

“I think he should have another trial,” Robert Covington tells 27 News.  “And he should be given another chance.”

Dassey and Avery were found guilty in separate trials of the 2003 rape and murder of 25-year old photographer Teresa Halbach on the Avery family salvage yard  property in Manitowoc County.  Dassey’s jury was picked in Dane County.

The popular and controversial Netflix presentation “Making a Murderer” looks at the events of both cases and has caused people to sign petitions demanding Avery’s pardon.  The series has also raised questions about police practices when Dassey confesses to crimes during an interrogation.

The 71-year old Covington – who retired from his job at Oscar Mayer in 2012 – says he stands by the guilty verdict he and other jurors delivered in 2007.  “We tried to make the best decision that we really could,”  Covington tells 27 News. Read More »

The Truth Will Help Brendan Dassey: A Conversation With ‘Making A Murderer’ Attorney Laura Nirider

lauraniriderAmong the many lessons that can be learned from Netflix’s Making a Murderer, one of the most important one: when accused of a serious crime, your fate is often tied to the quality of your lawyer.

(Spoiler alert for all episodes of Making a Murderer.)

Steven Avery came very close to being exonerated because of the creative and passionate defense by Dean Strang and Jerry Buting. (I’m talking to Strang today, so look for an interview on soon)

Brendan Dassey didn’t fare nearly as well in court. But things seem to be looking up for him. Among those still working to secure his freedom is Laura Nirider, an attorney at Northwestern University’s Center on the Wrongful Conviction of Youth. You probably remember her from the final episode of Making a Murderer. Read More »

Why Brendan Dassey’s Conviction May Be More Disturbing Than Steven Avery’s

030f415c75c913cde7168d1d5cdcea73Yahoo News Claire Lampen January 4, 2016

The internet has a lot of feelings about the Steven Avery case, as laid out in Making a Murderer, and most of them are feelings of rage. For the uninitiated few who’ve managed to miss the buzz, the Netflix documentary follows Avery’s conviction for the 2005 murder of Wisconsin photographer Teresa Halbach. And while Avery’s conviction has sparked controversy among viewers, the involvement of his nephew, Brendan Dassey, is arguably a better example of a miscarriage of justice.

“Steven’s case, almost any case, reveals some systemic weaknesses or things we should try to improve, not just in one case but across the workings of the justice system,” Avery’s defense attorney, Dean Strang, told the Capital Times. “For me at least, those flaws were revealed in sharper relief and more vividly in Brendan’s case.” Read More »