Skip to Content

Appeals court agrees Brendan Dassey should be released—or retried

Appeals court agrees Brendan Dassey should be released—or retried
Steven Avery's trailer, where his nephew Brendan Dassey claimed a murder took place. (Image by Netflix)

The United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit has said Brendan Dassey should be released based on a coerced confession that was a major focus of the Netflix series Making a Murderer. But he is not getting out yet: Wisconsin can now appeal the decision to the Supreme Court or retry Brendan within 90 days.

Brendan’s murder conviction was overturned last August, and he was ordered to be released in November. though he had to stay in prison while the state appealed.

In their decision [PDF], two of three judges agreed that “Dassey’s interview could be viewed in a psychology class as a perfect example of operant conditioning,” as their decision said, according to WBAY. “In sum, the investigators promised Dassey freedom and alliance if he told the truth and all signs suggest that Dassey took that promise literally. The pattern of questions demonstrates that the message the investigators conveyed is that the ‘truth’ was what they wanted to hear.”

They also wrote:

Teresa Halbach’s family has now grieved for their painful loss through several trials, multiple state court appeals, state post‐conviction relief appeals, and now the habeas proceedings in federal court. If only this court, through its many words, could re‐write the tragic tale of that final day of Teresa’s life. But of course, we cannot. Dassey has successfully demonstrated that the state court decision resulted in a deci‐ sion that was “contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established Federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court of the United States” and that “resulted in a decision that was based on an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented in the State court proceeding.”

One of Brendan’s attorneys, Laura Nirider, told USA TODAY, “As of today, Brendan has been locked up for 4,132 days. For the first time, this decision brings the end of that road in sight. We’re not there yet.”

Wisconsin’s Department of Justice said in a statement to WBAY:

“We are evaluating the 2-1 decision from the court. We anticipate seeking review by the entire 7th Circuit or the United States Supreme Court and hope that today’s erroneous decision will be reversed. We continue to send our condolences to the Halbach family as they have to suffer through another attempt by Mr. Dassey to re-litigate his guilty verdict and sentence.”

All reality blurred content is independently selected, including links to products or services. However, if you buy something after clicking an affiliate link, I may earn a commission, which helps support reality blurred. Learn more.

More great stories

About the author

  • Andy Dehnart is the creator of reality blurred and a writer and teacher who obsessively and critically covers reality TV and unscripted entertainment, focusing on how it’s made and what it means.


I value our community at reality blurred, which connects people through open and thoughtful conversations about the TV we’re watching and the stories about it.

Comment rules: My goal is for us to be able to share our perspectives and exchange ideas in a welcoming, supportive space. That’s why I’ve created these rules for commenting here. By commenting below, you confirm that you’ve read and agree to them.

Happy discussing!