It’s been a good year for Making A Murderer subject Brendan Dassey, if any year spent in jail for a murder you clearly had nothing to do with can be considered good. Over that time his team of appeal lawyers have won court victory after court victory, starting with a successful appeal last August that saw a federal judge throw out his conviction for the first degree murder and sexual assault of Teresa Halbach and demand he be freed.
No physical evidence ever linked Dassey to the case, and the judge determined that police violated his constitutional rights by coercing a confession from the intellectually impaired 16-year-old back in 2006. The state of Wisconsin appealed, but in November another judge upheld that decision. In June, a three judge federal appeals panel agreed as well.
Unfortunately for Dassey, the Wisconsin State Prosecutors Office has thus far successfully kept him behind bars while they continue to appeal each new verdict in his favor. The latest step in this drawn out process: a re-hearing of the case by the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals.
Oral arguments will begin Tuesday September 26th, and as before the legitimacy of the confession made by Dassey will be the crux of the defense’s case. On the prosecutor’s side, they plan to argue that Dassey cannot be given relief because a statute called AEDPA (also known as “one of the worst statutes ever passed”) sets specific deadlines on how long a defendant has to file a habeas corpus appeal. So even if all the judges on the Seventh Circuit agree that Dassey’s confession was bogus, they still may rule against him on a technicality.
As usual, it’s an uphill slog for the defense to clear Dassey’s name. Even if the Seventh Circuit upholds the lower court rulings that tossed Brendan’s conviction, it’s expected that Wisconsin will appeal yet again, bringing the case to the Supreme Court. But if an overwhelming number of judges on the Seventh Circuit agree that Brendan’s confession was coerced, the Supreme Court may deny to even hear the case. At that point the state wouldn’t be able to appeal any further, and Brendan Dassey would finally be free.