Making a Murderer took 10 years to make, no time to become a viral success, and almost exactly one year to result in an official exoneration for one of its subjects.
The Netflix true crime documentary followed Stephen Avery, who had previously served time for a crime he did not commit as a result of biased police work. Throughout the course of the series, Avery is shown being released from prison, attempting to sue the police department and others for his wrongful conviction, and then being charged once again in the murder of Teresa Halbach.
While the film left most viewers fuzzy on the guilt and involvement of Avery in the crime, most agreed that the conviction of his teenaged nephew, Brendan Dassey, had been the result of coercive police interrogations and flimsy legal representation. In August of 2016, a Milwaukee Magistrate, William Duffin, overturned Dassey’s conviction. Duffin ruled that investigators had violated the teen’s constitutional rights.
It was announced Thursday that the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals had upheld this decision in a 2-1 decision, after State prosecutors appealed Duffin’s decision.
In the documentary, it is clear that Dassey has some sort of learning disability and does not always understand what is going on around him. Family members allege that he was fed crime details, which were then reconstructed into a confession. He was also repeatedly interrogated without a parent or lawyer present.
Thursday’s decision does not guarantee Dassey’s release from prison as the State can still appeal to the Supreme Court; the state would also have the option of bringing fresh charges and holding an entirely new trial.