Wisconsin to fight Brendan Dassey release order

A man whose homicide conviction was overturned in a case profiled in the Netflix series "Making a Murderer" has been ordered released from prison.

MILWAUKEE - The Milwaukee judge who overturned the conviction of Brendan Dassey in the case made famous by "Making a Murderer" has ordered that Dassey be freed from prison, under supervision, pending further court developments.

The order was made Monday by U.S. Magistrate Judge William Duffin in a 17-page ruling.

State Attorney General Brad Schimel quickly moved to block the release, at least temporarily. His office announced it would file an emergency motion asking a federal appeals court to stay the release order.

Duffin stated in his order:

"Dassey's family is concentrated in northeastern Wisconsin. There is no indication that he has the inclination much less the means to flee or will otherwise fail to appear as may be legally required," Duffin wrote in his ruling. "Moreover, Dassey has a strong interest not to flee. ... Dassey has offered a detailed release plan that was prepared with the assistance of a clinical social worker with experience in similar cases. That social worker would remain involved in assisting Dassey as he adjusts to freedom following his decade in prison."

Duffin noted in Monday's ruling that when he granted Dassey's habeas corpus petition back in August that there was a presumption that "successful habeas petitioners are released while the respondent appeals that decision. The respondent (the Wisconsin Attorney General's Office) has failed to rebut that presumption. The court does not find that the respondent has a strong likelihood of success on appeal ... the court finds it must grant Dassey's petition and order him released from the custody of the respondent."

Dassey, 27, has been in prison since being sentenced in 2007 to life in the 2005 murder of Teresa Halbach. Dassey's uncle, Steven Avery, also is serving a life sentence in the Manitowoc County murder.

As part of Monday's order, Duffin outlined a number of restrictions to be imposed upon Dassey while he remains free as the Wisconsin Attorney General's Office aims to reinstate his 2007 murder conviction. The court ordered that Dassey be supervised the U.S. Probation Office for the Eastern District of Wisconsin.

"Not only will the United States Probation Office monitor Dassey's compliance with the conditions of release the court will impose, but probation officers are experts in addressing issues that Dassey is likely to face upon being released after more than a decade in prison," Duffin wrote.

The federal judge noted that if Dassey violates any of the terms of his release he may be returned to custody pending the outcome of the prosecution's ongoing appeal effort.

Here are some of the conditions of Dassey's appeal:

  • Dassey must not violate any federal, state or local laws.
  • He must appear in court as required and surrender to serve any sentence as ordered by a court.
  • He shall comply with any applicable law regarding sex offender registration.
  • He shall cooperate with the U.S. Probation Office including making himself available for any home visits deemed necessary.
  • Within having contact with any police or law enforcement officer, Dassey shall report such contact with his federal probation officers.

Dassey has until noon Tuesday to notify the probation office of his intended residential address. Federal probation officers, in turn, will be asked to inspect the dwelling to determine if it's a suitable place for Dassey to stay.

Under Duffin's order, Dassey would be supervised by the U.S. Probation Office.

Duffin reversed the conviction in August, ruling that Dassey's constitutional rights were violated based on the way Dassey, who was 16 at the time of the murder, was interrogated.

Dassey's conviction was based on a confession he gave to investigators working for the prosecution and to an investigator working for his first lawyer.

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel


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