Netflix's hit docuseries Making a Murderer chronicles the trials of both Steven Avery and his nephew Brendan Dassey, who was convicted in 2007 for the murder of young photographer Teresa Halbach. After being charged and convicted of sexual assault, murder, and mutilation of a corpse, Dassey was sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole, and is currently in prison alongside his uncle.
At the age of 16, Dassey confessed to raping Teresa Halbach and assisting in her murder, claiming that it was all under the instruction of his uncle Steven Avery, the subject of Making a Murderer. (Avery has always insisted he is innocent.) According the Manitowoc County courts, his decision to become involved in the case was completely voluntary. In other words, Steven Avery had never implicated his nephew in the alleged crime.
The series spotlights a conversation between Dassey and his mother, during which Dassey claims that he was pressured by law enforcement to fabricate a testimony. (Manitowoc County insists that only standard interrogation techniques were used; you can watch the entire four-hour confession for yourself online.) At present, attorneys are attempting to win a retrial for Dassey, who is now being represented by the Center on Wrongful Convictions of Youth. If the series has left you thinking that Dassey deserves a retrial, there are a few things you can do to help.
1) Petition To Raise Awareness
Viewers who believed in both Avery's and Dassey's innocence addressed a petition to the White House, asking Obama to pardon the prisoners, whom they believe had not been considered innocent until proven guilty. Unfortunately, the president can't make an executive order to free a prisoner held by the state. A more effective method to raise awareness for the possibility of a retrial, however, could be to address petitions to the state of Wisconsin.
The site ipetitions.com allows you to sign forms that encourage the Wisconsin Supreme Court to give Dassey a retrial. You can find one example here.
2) Get The Word Out
Believe it or not, Steven Avery's website also features its own little shop that sells T-shirts and hats with slogans like "Free Avery and Dassey." With an outline of the state of Wisconsin in the background, they're actually kind of cool.
If you want to simply encourage people to watch the series and make up their minds for themselves, you can buy Making a Murderer merchandise that remains fairly neutral.
3) Send Support to Dassey
A blog called "Jon's Jail Journal" features the purported address of Dassey, who could then receive your letters in prison. It offers you the option of writing via email or handwritten letter.
4) Contact Your State Legislators
The advice from the Center on Wrongful Convictions of Youth — which you can find in full here — is to do the following:
1. Contact your local state legislator and insist that he or she sponsor a law requiring that police electronically record all interrogations of suspects. The fact that Brendan’s interrogation was recorded may ultimately be his saving grace. Viewers were able to see just how the police manipulated Brendan into confessing with promises of help and how they spoon-fed Brendan details that only the true perpetrator would have known. Although courts to date have not granted relief to Brendan based on these recordings, imagine what little chance he’d have if it was only his word against the word of the police officers about what happened during the interrogation. For a list of states that require electronic recording, click here.
2. Contact your local legislator and insist that he or she sponsor a law that requires police to interrogate juvenile suspects in the presence of and after meaningful consultation with their parents. There are a number of states that require parental presence and consultation.
You can also donate to the Center on Wrongful Convictions of Youth here.
Check out the 'Making a Murderer' stream in the Bustle app for more on Steven Avery & Brendan Dassey's cases. Download it here.