Brendan Dassey, the nephew of convicted killer Steven Avery who was featured in the docuseries Making a Murderer, could be one step closer to freedom after a Wisconsin appeals court upheld a ruling that his confession was coerced.
A three-judge panel in the Seventh Court of Appeals agreed late Thursday with an earlier decision that Dassey, 27, was intimidated into saying he played a role in the 2005 murder of photographer Teresa Halbach, according to WBAY.
Two of the judges concurred with Judge William Duffin's ruling last year that investigators offered Dassey, then 17, the false promise that "he had nothing to worry about" while interrogating him about the Halbach slaying — without a parent or an attorney present.
"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 U.S. Constitution, Duffin wrote.
Dassey’s legal team is now hopeful their client will be released from jail.
"I just want to express my hope that this is the end of the road for Brendan, that this you know, 10-plus year nightmare can finally be over for him,” Dassey lawyer Bob Dvorak told WBAY. “That's the hope I'm holding out."
Halbach vanished on Halloween in 2005 after an appointment at the Avery family’s salvage yard in Manitowoc County. Her car and charred remains were found on property several days later.
After fingering Avery for the murder, police turned their attention to Dassey when he was mentioned as his uncle's alibi.
Dassey was sentenced to life in prison for his role in Halbach’s murder. In a separate trial, Avery was also sentenced to life behind bars.
Making a Murderer, a 10-part Netflix series that premiered in 2015, chronicled a decade of the Avery case, including Dassey’s interrogation, trial and conviction.
Following the release of the documentary, the sheriff’s office received an onslaught of criticism from the public for its handling of the Halbach murder investigation.
The sheriff’s department said that within a month of Making a Murderer's premiere, it received as many as 300 phone calls and hundreds of emails, most of which were negative, about its role in the Avery case.
A second season of Making a Murderer is expected to premiere later this year.