Supreme Court denies review of Pritzker lawyer’s ‘Making a Murderer’ case


Daily File Photo by Katie Pach

Pritzker School of Law. Pritzker lawyer Laura Nirider’s client, Brendan Dassey, was denied review by the Supreme Court on Monday.

Allie Goulding, Reporter

The U.S. Supreme Court announced Monday that it will not hear the case of Pritzker lawyer Laura Nirider’s client, Brendan Dassey.

Dassey was found guilty of raping and murdering Teresa Halbach in a Wisconsin court in April 2007. His conviction was based primarily on four separate two-on-one interrogations where he confessed to the murder, according to a Feb. 20 news release. Video of his interrogations show Dassey, who was 16 at the time, was “manipulated by experienced officers,” Nirider said.

Dassey’s case is featured in the 2015 Netflix documentary series, “Making a Murderer.”

“We will continue to fight to free Brendan Dassey,” Nirider, co-director of the Pritzker School of Law’s Center on Wrongful Convictions of Youth, said in a statement sent to The Daily. “Brendan was a sixteen-year old with intellectual and social disabilities when he confessed to a crime he did not commit.”

The Supreme Court did not say why they denied Dassey’s petition for review, the Washington Post reported. According to federal law, the Supreme Court is to defer to decisions made by lower courts unless the decision by the state court was unreasonable.

Nirider said Dassey is not alone when it comes to false confessions made by juveniles.

“Over the past twenty years, extensive empirical and psychological research has shown that children under 18 are between three and four times more likely to falsely confess than adults — and yet the criminal justice system fails many of them,” Nirider said. “It’s up to the courts to put an end to this.”

Dassey’s confession was determined to be coerced and overturned by U.S. Magistrate Judge William Duffin at the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin in August 2016. Dassey was ordered to be freed from prison within 90 days, unless prosecutors decided to retry the case.

Two days before Dassey’s release in November 2016, attorneys with the Wisconsin Department of Justice filed an emergency motion with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, asking the court to reverse Duffin’s decision.

The case was heard by a panel of three judges from the Court of Appeals in June 2017, and the panel voted 2-1 to uphold Duffin’s decision. However, about six months later, the full Court of Appeals reheard the case and narrowly reversed the lower court’s decision with a 4-3 vote.

The Supreme Court has not heard a case of a false confession in nearly 40 years, according to the Feb. 20 release. Nirider told The Daily in March that for nearly 70 years, the courts have had legal obligation to treat confessions by juveniles with “special care,” but said the Supreme Court remains silent on the issue.

“Now, more than ever, courts around the country must update their understandings of coercion in light of the newly understood problem of false confessions,” Nirider said in Monday’s statement. “The Center on Wrongful Convictions of Youth is dedicated to continuing this effort, along with our justice-minded partners in both law enforcement and defense-oriented communities across the globe.”

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