Regardless of your take on Netflix's Making a Murderer, you can probably agree that Brendan Dassey, the nephew of the series' main subject Steven Avery, got screwed over pretty hard. In fact, that's been a theme for the past 11-and-a-half years, as Dassey, who was 16 when he made a very questionable confession (without a legal rep, adult, or parent present) to police during his fourth interrogation in less than two days, is still currently incarcerated despite the fact that nobody but the state really thinks he did what he admitted to back in 2006.
Now, Dassey's fate is being decided by a panel of judges who can affirm a ruling from this past June that upheld a magistrate's decision to toss Dassey's conviction. If that were to happen, prosecutors could either appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court (which doesn't take too many potential cases), re-try him, or dismiss the charges and simply say "Sorry. Our bad for that whole locking you up for more than a decade thing."
He's got a lot on the line here.
And, on Tuesday, Dassey's saga took a(nother) slight turn when one of the seven federal appellate judges deciding if Dassey's confession was coerced or not, Chief Judge Diane Wood, said the video (which you can see above) was so unsettling that it made her "skin crawl." And, while you may think that spells good news for his chances of becoming a free man, Fox Chicago notes that:
[O]ther judges at the full-court rehearing at 7th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in Chicago sounded unconvinced that investigators had manipulated the intellectually challenged Dassey and encouraged him to tell them what they wanted to hear about the 2005 slaying of photographer Teresa Halbach in Two River, Wisconsin
Additionally they noted that judges seemed split, based upon their line of questioning.
Still, Fox says that Wood "clearly signaled" she thinks the detectives went overboard in their line of questioning. "The investigators made my skin crawl watching this video," she said, while noting his lack of representation in the room. "He is obviously racking his brain about how he can answer ... in a way (investigators) will like."
Court filings on the case also point out that Dassey has an IQ of 80, and thus has difficulty grasping basic concepts, meanings, and consequences. Wood took that into account while voicing her opinion, as she brought up the fact that he asked if he could go back to his high school class after confessing his alleged role in the brutal crime.
In 2007, Dassey (who was not at Tuesday's hearing) was sentenced to life in prison for confessing to detectives that he helped his uncle rape and kill Halbech in the family junkyard. If this latest legal battle falls short and he remains imprisoned, his earliest possible parole date would come in 2048.