Brendan Dassey was only 16 years old in 2005 when he confessed to helping his uncle, Steven Avery, sexually assault and murder photographer Teresa Halbach. This case turned into a global sensation when it was documented in the 2015 Netflix series “Making a Murder,” one that aimed to prove both Avery and Dassey’s innocence.
Dassey was 17 when convicted, and now, just weeks before his 30th birthday, he has entered a plea for clemency with the new Wisconsin governor, the New York Times reports.
Dassey has intellectual disabilities and is serving a life sentence without the possibility of early release until 2048.
He has appealed his conviction on multiple occasions and failed. Most recently, in 2018, “he sought review by the Supreme Court after lower courts overturned but then ultimately reinstated his conviction,” USA Today reports. However, the U.S. Supreme court announced in June 2018 that it would not hear Dassey’s appeal.
Dassey’s legal team is launching a campaign to persuade Wisconsin’s Democratic Governor Anthony “Tony” Evers to take a closer look at the case.
In their efforts to persuade him of Dassey’s innocence, team members are including “…Mr. Dassey’s first audio interview, recorded for a podcast about wrongful convictions, as well as television and print media exclusives,” the New York Times reports.
His legal team includes a clemency expert and a former United States solicitor general.
On Wednesday, Dassey’s interview for the podcast “Wrongful Conviction With Jason Flom” was released. In the taping, Dassey told Flom, who sits on the board of the Innocence Project, that the investigators “got into my head.”
Dassey said, “They got me to say whatever they wanted,” the New York Times reports.
At the heart of the controversy is Dassey’s confession, and considering whether it was voluntary or – as many people including Dassey’s legal team believe – coerced.
Laura Nirider, one of Dassey’s lawyers and a co-director of the Center on Wrongful Convictions at Northwestern University’s law school in Chicago, said, “His speech impairments put him in the bottom first percentile of being able to cope with spoken language, which is the currency of interrogation.”
During his 2005 interrogation, the authorities questioned Dassey for over three hours, without having a lawyer, an adult, or a parent present.
In the recorded footage of the exchange, Dassey appears frightened and unaware of the seriousness of the situation. He wrings his hands during the duration of the interrogation.
After confessing to some elements of the heinous crime, he asked the investigators, “Will we be out by 1:29? I have a school project due.” This, many argue, shows that Dassey didn’t understand the gravity of the situation and therefore didn’t understand what he was confessing to.
The New York Times reported that at the end of the podcast interview with Flom, Dassey was given free rein to say whatever he wanted. He chose to use that time to express his love for Pokémon, the Japanese trading card game.
“I love Pokémon and my favorite Pokémon is Mew, but there’s a new one coming out called Alcremie that I really like,” Dassey said. “And hopefully I get to see some of the more new ones coming out pretty soon.”