On Thursday, the Associated Press reported that a federal appeals court in Chicago upheld an earlier ruling to overturn the murder conviction of Making A Murderer subject Brendan Dassey. The decision is a win for the team behind the Netflix docuseries, who heavily suggested that Dassey's confession was coerced, but it also raises a myriad of questions. Chief among them: Will Brendan Dassey get out of jail, and if so, when?
As with most legal proceedings, this one is a sensitive and complex process. Dassey previously told detectives that he helped his uncle, Steven Avery, rape and kill Teresa Halbach in the Avery family's Manitowoc County salvage yard in 2005. Both men were convicted and sentenced to life in prison, where they've remained for the last 10 years.
But Making A Murderer presented the argument that Dassey's interrogation was allegedly forceful and manipulative — a framework that a federal judge in Milwaukee upheld in August 2016. The ruling stated that the confession was allegedly improperly obtained due to Dassey's age (he was 16 at the time), intellectual deficits, and lack of adult present for his questioning, and that it was involuntary under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution. The Manitowoc County sheriff's department has consistently maintained that the interrogation was standard protocol and did not lead to a false confession. (Bustle has reached out to the Manitowoc County sheriff's department for comment, but did not immediately receive a response.)
Now, a three-judge federal appeals panel has affirmed the August ruling. According to WBAY, their decision reads:
"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 ... Dassey, however, had trouble maintaining a consistent story except when he was being led step-by-step through the facts, thus confirming that his confession emerge not from his own free will, but from the will of investigators."
Shortly after the news broke, Dassey's attorneys, Steven Drizin and Laura Nirider, wrote in a statement that they were "overjoyed for Brendan and his family" and looked forward to "working to secure his release from prison as soon as possible." (When Bustle reached out to the attorneys for comment, they directed us to the same statement.)
What lies ahead for Dassey is dependent on how the state of Wisconsin chooses to proceed. They currently have 90 days from the court's order to retry him, and state attorneys could also appeal the case to the U.S. Supreme Court. A spokesperson for Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel told ABC News that they're "evaluating" the decision and intend to seek review.
"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."
If the state does proceed to challenge the ruling, it will mean another lengthy trial for Dassey. It's been 10 months since the Milwaukee judge initially overturned his conviction, and another case will likely fall into the same time frame. So while it's possible that Dassey will get out of prison, it probably won't be for quite some time, if ever.