Netflix's new docuseries Making a Murderer shows that there is no easy answer to the question of whether or not Brendan Dassey killed Teresa Halbach. The young man initially confessed in March 2006 to helping his uncle Steven Avery murder the photographer, but as seen in the show, he later recanted his statement during his trial in April 2007. Despite their pleas of innocence, both Avery and Dassey are currently serving life sentences for Halbach's murder.
Many viewers who watched the series believe it raises questions about whether these two men are actually guilty or innocent. But some have suggested that Dassey's conviction was the most troubling aspect of the series. Multitudes took to social media to express their opinions on Dassey's sentencing. "I don't know if Stephen [sic] Avery is innocent but I'm pretty sure Brendan Dassey is and he was completely railroaded!" one user claimed on Twitter. "So, I'm not sure if Steven Avery is innocent or guilty, but I know I feel awful about how Brendan Dassey was handled over and over again," said another. "I'm not 100% sure that Steven Avery is innocent. However, I'm 99.9999% sure Brendan Dassey is," said a third.
The facts of the case are as follows. Dassey, a then-16-year-old high school student with a below-average IQ, confessed in March 2006 to witnessing and participating in Halbach's rape and murder, months after Avery was arrested for the crime in November 2005. As seen in the docuseries, Dassey's lawyers alleged during the trial that the investigators on the Halbach case had encouraged Dassey to falsely confess. The Manitowoc County Sheriff's department denies any wrongdoing. The show included a recording of a phone conversation between Dassey and his mother, Barb Tadych, which took place shortly after he was arrested. In it, Dassey claimed, "[The investigators] got in my head." This part of the tape was never played for the jury, according to the documentary. Investigator Mark Wiegert denied coercing Dassey to confess. He said during the trial that the interrogation tactics used were "part of breaking down those barriers" to get to what the investigators believed was the truth.
Basically, there were (and still are) a lot of people saying a lot of different things. To help understand all of the confusing details, here is a timeline of the events — as presented in Making a Murderer and in available news stories and legal documents — of Dassey's alleged involvement in Halbach's murder.
Oct. 19, 1989: Dassey is born.
Oct. 31, 2005: Teresa Halbach goes missing.
Nov. 6, 2005: Dassey gives his first statement to police, saying that he has no knowledge of what happened to Halbach, after her vehicle was found in his uncle's auto yard the day before.
Nov. 9, 2005: Avery is arrested for being a felon in possession of a firearm.
Nov. 15, 2005: Avery is charged with Halbach's murder.
March 1, 2006: Dassey, again without a lawyer present, confesses to investigators at the Manitowoc County Sheriff's Department that he raped Halbach and slit her throat on his uncle's instruction.
March 2, 2006: Dassey is charged in adult court for being party to first-degree intentional homicide, mutilation of a corpse, and first-degree sexual assault.
March 7, 2006: Len Kachinsky is appointed as Dassey's public defender. Kayla Avery, Dassey's cousin, is re-interviewed by police. She claims that Dassey confessed to the murder to her.
March 31, 2006: Avery speaks to the Associated Press and claims that Dassey was "coerced" into giving a false confession. This is later denied by investigators during Dassey's trial.
May 12, 2006: Judge Jerome Fox decides that Dassey's taped Mar. 1, 2006 confession is admissible as evidence in his case. Kachinsky's hired investigator Michael O'Kelly interviews Dassey alone afterward and receives another confession.
May 13, 2006: Kachinsky allows Dassey to be interviewed by Wiegart and Fassbender without him present, resulting in another confession.
June 2, 2006: Judge Fox denies Dassey's motion to replace Kachinsky as his lawyer.
June 30, 2006: Judge Fox receives a letter written by Dassey which states that he had no involvement in the crime and that he had an alibi for the alleged timeframe in which Halbach was murdered.
Late Aug. 2006: Kachinsky is dismissed by Judge Fox as Dassey's lawyer for allowing the teen to be interviewed alone on May 13.
March 18, 2007: Avery is found guilty of Halbach's murder.
April 16, 2007: Dassey's trial begins. He recants his confession. Kayla Avery takes the stand and says she never spoke to Dassey about Halbach. "He didn't tell me anything ... I kind of made up the statement and I'm sorry" she said.
April 25, 2007: Dassey is found guilty of first-degree intentional homicide, second-degree sexual assault, and mutilating a corpse.
Jan. 15, 2010: The first day of Dassey's post-conviction motion hearing takes place with Dassey's new lawyers — Steven Drizin, Robert Dvorak, and Laura Nirider.
Jan. 21, 2010: Dassey's lawyers call the investigator whom Kachinsky hired, O'Kelly, to the stand in an attempt to prove the allegations that Dassey was coerced to confess back in 2006.
Dec. 13, 2010: Judge Fox denies Dassey's motion for a new trial.
Jan. 30, 2013: The Wis. Court of Appeals upholds Judge Fox's decision.
Aug. 1, 2013: The Wis. Supreme Court denies Dassey's request to review his case.
Late 2015: Dassey's lawyers file a petition for writ of habeas corpus in the U.S. District Court so that a federal judge may review Dassey's case.
Nov. 1, 2048: The date that Dassey will be eligible for early release. He will be 59 years old at that time.
Images: Netflix (10)