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Making A Murderer‘s Brendan Dassey Demands SCOTUS Review


One of two attorneys for Brendan Dassey announced today that Dassey’s legal team has filed to bring the convicted killer’s case to the Supreme Court of the United States. Dassey and his uncle Steven Avery were convicted of the 2005 murder of freelance photographer Teresa Halbach. Their cases were later profiled in the hit Netflix film Making a Murderer.

Attorney Laura Nirider made the announcement Tuesday afternoon via Twitter. Nirider and attorney Steve Drizin, working through the Center on Wrongful Convictions of Youth at Northwestern University’s Pritzker School of Law, have been representing Brendan Dassey through the federal appeals process. They are now joined by former U.S. Solicitor General Seth Waxman, who served as solicitor general under President Bill Clinton in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Nirider and Drizin had previously announced they were seeking a lead attorney with substantial experience arguing before the Supreme Court to take the case forward. Nirider noted that Waxman and his associates were volunteering their time:

The filing comes nearly a month before a March 16th deadline for attorneys to file it.

Drizin, Dassey’s co-counsel through the lower federal courts, said many attorneys were going to back up the Supreme Court team:

In an en banc hearing, a full panel of judges on the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled 4 to 3 that Dassey’s confession to the Halbach murder was legally voluntary and, therefore, reliable enough to have served as grounds for his conviction. That December 8, 2017 decision is being appealed. A previous decision issued June 22, 2017 by the 7th Circuit ruled 2-4 that Dassey’s conviction was not voluntary and, thus, was not reliable enough to support his conviction. Before that, a federal district magistrate judge ordered on August 12, 2016, that Dassey should be released from prison on the same grounds. Dassey has remained in prison while the appeals process moved along. He remains incarcerated pending the Supreme Court’s decision as to whether or not to hear his case.

It is rare for the Supreme Court to accept a petition to take a case. Some analyses suggest only 2.8% of petitions are successful. That number factors in petitions filed without the help of an attorney. Statistics suggest the success rate for petitions filed by attorneys is close to 6%.

If the Supreme Court refuses to hear Dassey’s case, his conviction will stand, and he will remain in prison in Wisconsin.

This piece began as a breaking news piece. It has been updated to include additional information received since the original time of publication.

[Image via the Wisconsin Department of Corrections]

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Aaron Keller is an attorney licensed in two states. He holds a juris doctor degree from the University of New Hampshire School of Law and a broadcast journalism degree from Syracuse University. During law school, he completed legal residencies in the Office of the New Hampshire Attorney General and in a local prosecutor’s office. He was employed as a summer associate in the New Hampshire Department of Safety, which manages the state police, and further served as a summer law clerk for a New York trial judge. Before law school, Keller worked for television stations in New York and in the Midwest, mostly as an evening news anchor and investigative reporter. His original reporting on the Wisconsin murder of Teresa Halbach was years later featured in the Netflix film "Making A Murderer."