Few exemplars of the true-crime craze have compelled viewers to the same extent as “Making a Murderer.” Netflix’s miniseries focuses on Steven Avery, who spent 18 years in prison after being wrongly convicted of murder and was later put behind bars for another killing; his nephew, Brendan Dassey, was also charged with the second murder. The rulings have been highly controversial, but Dassey just had his conviction upheld by a federal appeals court in Chicago.
Dassey’s defense contends that he was coerced into confessing his participation in the murder and was not actually involved. He was sentenced to life in prison 10 years ago. “The state courts’ finding that Dassey’s confession was voluntary was not beyond fair debate, but we conclude it was reasonable,” said the 39-page ruling in the 4-3 decision.
Judge Ilana Diamond Rovner, who voted against upholding the conviction, wrote in her dissent that Dassey’s confession “was not voluntary and his conviction should not stand, and yet an impaired teenager has been sentenced to life in prison. I view this as a profound miscarriage of justice.”
Now 27, Dassey was 16 at the time of his confession; his conviction was overturned last year, but he has remained in prison during the appeal process. Chief Judge Diane P. Wood, another dissenter, wrote in her opinion that “without this involuntary and highly unreliable confession, the case against Dassey was almost nonexistent.”