MILWAUKEE, Aug. 12 (UPI) — A Wisconsin man who with his uncle was imprisoned for the rape and killing of a woman a decade ago had his conviction overturned by a judge on Friday.
U.S. Magistrate Judge William Duffin handed down a 91-page ruling Friday that cited several violations committed by authorities during their original interrogations of Brendan Dassey after the crime, which resulted in a confession.
Based on those factors, the judge said Dassey’s constitutional rights were violated and, thus, the conviction was unlawful.
Plus, Duffin said, the interrogation tactics used by authorities were questionable.
“The court acknowledges significant doubts as to the reliability of Dassey’s confession,” the ruling said. “Crucial details evolved through repeated leading and suggestive questioning and generally stopped changing only after the investigators, in some manner, indicated to Dassey that he finally gave the answer they were looking for.”
Dassey was implicated in the crime when he was just 16. The killing, which was also perpetrated by his uncle, Steven Avery, ultimately became the basis for a 2015 Netflix documentary series titled, Making a Murderer.
Prosecutors have 90 days to appeal Duffin’s ruling and retry Dassey. Authorities have previously indicated they will try to obtain another conviction.
Avery and Dassey were accused of raping and killing Teresa Halbach, 25, in 2005 and burning her body. Avery was sentenced to life in prison and Dassey to 40 years.
Duffin said in his ruling that investigators lied to Dassey during initial interrogations by making false promises for his cooperation. Dassey’s attorney has argued that led to an involuntary confession.
An appeals court later upheld the conviction, which Duffin took issue with in his decision.
“The court of appeals erred when it focused on the statements of the investigators in isolation to conclude that they did not make any promises of leniency,” the judge wrote in the ruling.
“The investigators’ use of leading questions and disclosure of non-public facts makes it difficult to evaluate whether Dassey really knew the facts or was simply agreeing with the investigators.”
The judge also chastised Dassey’s trial attorney for misconduct he called “indefensible.”