‘Making a Murderer’ subject Brendan Dassey is petitioning for clemency
(CNN) — Brendan Dassey, the man whose murder conviction is at the center of Netflix’s “Making a Murderer,” is petitioning for clemency after spending more than a decade in prison.
Dassey’s attorney Laura Nirider announced Wednesday his defense had filed a petition for clemency with Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers.
In 2005, when he was 16, Dassey confessed to authorities he’d helped his uncle rape and murder photographer Teresa Halbach. He was convicted of her murder in 2007 and has been serving a life sentence in a Wisconsin prison ever since.
In the petition, shared on the website for the “Wrongful Conviction” podcast, the attorneys argue that Dassey, now 29, should be freed on grounds that his confession was disproved by physical evidence at the scene and his inability to accurately describe the method in which Halbach was killed.
The petition said that “extreme attorney misconduct” marred his conviction. She said Dassey’s attorney, Len Kachinsky, pressured his client into pleading guilty after Dassey was coerced into making a false statement.
“Brendan Dassey was a sixteen-year-old, intellectually disabled child when he was taken from his school and subjected to a uniquely and profoundly flawed legal process,” the petition said. “Such a debt can never be justly repaid with the currency of innocence.”
Among the documents Nirider provided the podcast, is a letter Dassey wrote to Evers in April. In it, he congratulates the newly elected governor, lists some of his favorite things (among them, Orange Crush, John Cena and the Fourth of July) and asks for his release.
“I am writing to ask for a pardon because I am innocent and want to go home,” he wrote to Gov. Evers in a letter dated April 16.
Neither Nirider nor Evers’ office responded to CNN’s emails and phone calls for comment.
His conviction was overturned, then upheld
Dassey’s case has taken multiple turns since his arrest in 2005.
He was convicted of first-degree murder, second-degree sexual assault and mutilation of a corpse.
For the first charge, he was sentenced to life in prison with no eligibility for extended supervision until November 2048, according to the petition.
But the Netflix true-crime series “Making a Murderer” renewed interest in his case. The 10-part series followed the cases of Dassey and his uncle, Steven Avery, who was also convicted for Halbach’s murder.
A federal judge in Milwaukee overturned his conviction in August 2016, citing his age, intellectual deficit and lack of a guardian during questioning.
In November that same year, the Wisconsin attorney general filed a motion to release him from prison under the supervision of the US Probation Office.
The US Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals appealed the decision, blocking his release, but in June 2017, the court upheld the federal judge’s ruling.
The case flipped again in December 2017. The appeals court ruled Dassey’s 2005 confession, which he later recanted, should not be thrown out, upholding his life sentence.
After losing in the lower courts, Dassey’s lawyers appealed to the Supreme Court in February 2018. The court declined to take up the case.
Avery, Dassey’s uncle, petitioned for his release in 2016. He was previously exonerated in 2003 after serving 18 years in prison for the rape of a jogger in 1985. DNA evidence connected the attack to another man, and he was free for two years before getting arrested again in 2005.