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'Making A Murderer': Brendan Dassey Gets Conviction Overturned

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Brendan Dassey, who was prominently featured in the Netflix documentary series Making a Murderer, had his conviction overturned by the U.S. District Court in Milwaukee on Friday, and must be released in 90 days if the case is not appealed. A judge ruled that not only were Dassey's constitutional rights violated during questioning in the investigation, but that his "intellectual deficits" made him a candidate for coercion, Business Insider reports. Dassey was accused of helping his uncle, Steve Avery, murder 25-year-old Teresa Halbach on October 31, 2005 after she came to the family's auto salvage lot in Manitowoc County, Wis. to photograph a vehicle for Auto Trader Magazine. Dassey was just 15 at the time of the murder. He was charged with first-degree intentional homicide, mutilation of a corpse, and first-degree sexual assault, and sentenced to life in prison in 2007.

Avery had previously spent 18 years in prison after being wrongfully convicted of raping a woman in 1985, and filmmakers explored the possibility that corrupt law enforcement had framed Avery for Halbach's murder in order to make the lawsuit Avery had filed against the county obsolete. Dassey first told investigators how he had helped his uncle with the murder, then later recanted, saying he was coerced. Notably, Dassey's IQ hovers somewhere between 69 and 73.

After the documentary series came out, Dassey received new legal representation helmed by Laura Nirider and Steve Drizin, while Avery secured Kathleen Zellner. Friday afternoon, Drizin tweeted that Dassey's conviction had been overturned and he must be released or brought to trial in 90 days.

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According to Judge's decision:

The investigators repeatedly claimed to already know what happened on October 31 and assured Dassey that he had nothing to worry about. These repeat false promises, when considered in conjunction with all relevant factors, most especially Dassey's age, intellectual deficits, and the absence of a supportive adult, rendered Dassey's confession involuntary under the Fifth and Fourth Amendments. The Wisconsin Court of Appeals' decision to the contrary was an unreasonable application of clearly established federal law.

Former Wisconsin DA Ken Kratz hasn't commented on the new development yet, but one of Avery's lawyers in the Halbach trial, Jerry Buting, issued a celebratory tweet.

Meanwhile, defense attorney Dean Strang is now getting his own TV show, and Making a Murderer is getting a second season.

Update [5:00 p.m.]: Steven A. Drizin and Laura Nirider have released a statement through Northwestern University, where they are both professors and represented Dassey through the law school's Center on Wrongful Convictions of Youth. "Dr. Martin Luther King said that the 'arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.' It has taken a decade but the law is finally bending toward justice in the case of Brendan Dassey," the statement read. "We look forward to taking the appropriate next steps to secure Brendan's release from prison as soon as possible and are thrilled for him."