Appellate court takes up Dassey case

CHICAGO (WLUK) - Six months after a federal judge in Milwaukee overturned Brendan Dassey's conviction, the U.S. Court of Appeals in Chicago heard the merits of the state's case to uphold that conviction.

The overturned ruling centers around Dassey's confession to investigators in which he admitted his involvement, along with that of his uncle Steven Avery, in the murder of Teresa Halbach in 2005. The Milwaukee judge wrote the confession was coerced and unlawful.

The case gained worldwide attention with the December 2015 release of the Netflix documentary series "Making a Murderer," which casts doubt on Dassey and Avery's convictions.

In addressing the three-judge panel hearing the appeal, prosecutor Luke Berg of the Wisconsin Department of Justice said, "Brendan Dassey chose to confess to release those terrible images of Teresa Halbach that were haunting him" and "to get it all out."

Dassey's attorney Laura Nirider maintained his confession was manipulated, with investigators feeding him details of the case. She says Dassey, who was 16 at the time, was without legal counsel during the interrogation and possessed a low IQ, which made him vulnerable. She also argued investigators made false promises to Dassey that his words would not be held against him.

Listen to audio of the full hearing

In his rebuttal, Berg pointed out, "I think the details Dassey provided that are the most telling are of Teresa."

"He remembered her screaming," Berg argued. "He remembered her crying."

The Halbach family watched from the front row of the packed courtroom in the federal building in downtown Chicago. Behind them was Ken Kratz, the former Calumet County district attorney who prosecuted both Avery and Dassey.

"I'm hopeful the conviction will be upheld and the matter will finally be put to rest," Kratz said.

Kratz says there's no case law to overturn his conviction. But if it is overturned, we asked if Dassey could be retried by the state without use of the confession in question. He said there are other statements that can be used.

One of the judges asked whether there was any physical evidence linking Dassey to Halbach's murder. Nirider responded no.

The judges thanked both attorneys for their assistance in helping them to understand the case. They told the court the case will be taken under advisement. There is no timetable for a decision to be reached.

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