Judge Orders Release of Brendan Dassey in Making a Murderer Case
A federal judge on Monday ordered Brendan Dassey — whose overturned murder conviction was spotlighted in Netflix’s award-winning true crime documentary series Making a Murderer — released from prison as he awaits a possible retrial, PEOPLE confirms.
The district court judge placed several conditions on Dassey’s release. Among them, he is only allowed to travel in the court’s Eastern District of Wisconsin. He’s also barred from obtaining a passport, or possessing guns, weapons of any kind or controlled substances.
The court also forbade Dassey from having any contact with the family of slain photographer Teresa Halbach or his own uncle, Steven Avery.
In 2007, Dassey and Avery were convicted for Halbach’s 2005 murder. A judge overturned Dassey’s conviction in August, and Wisconsin prosecutors have since appealed that ruling. Likewise, the state quickly announced its intention Monday to file an emergency motion seeking a stay of the release order.
It was not immediately clear from the judge’s ruling when Dassey will be freed.
In a written statement to PEOPLE, Avery’s lawyer, Kathleen Zellner, said, “We believe Brendan will be at his family’s Thanksgiving dinner. It’s time for prosecutor’s to seek justice rather than vindication in this case.”
Dassey’s lawyers echoed that sentiment in a statement online: “We are in the process of making arrangements for his release and hope that Brendan will be reunited with his family by Thanksgiving, if not sooner. We urge everyone to respect Brendan’s privacy during this time of transition.
“As we give thanks this holiday season for family and friends, our food will taste all the sweeter because we know that for the first time in ten years, Brendan will be celebrating in freedom with his family, too.
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In March 2006, Dassey, then 16, told investigators he had helped Avery rape and murder Halbach on Oct. 31, 2005. But he later recanted, claiming the confession had been coerced.
Dassey’s confession to law enforcement is perhaps the most debated aspect of Making a Murderer.
On the day of the confession, lead investigators Tom Fassbender and Mark Wiegert pulled Dassey out of school and questioned him alone for hours. Dassey is described by multiple people in the series as having learning disabilities.
During the interrogation, Dassey told investigators he had helped Avery kill Halbach, saying that they shot her in the head and burned her body at a bonfire on the Avery property later that evening.
Calumet County Prosecutor Ken Kratz called a news conference shortly after investigators secured the confession, saying that Dassey described in detail Halbach’s brutal assault and slaying.
However, after seeing portions of the confession on Netflix, many people came to believe he was led by Fassbender and Wiegert, who repeatedly question him until the teen gives them a confession.
In a recorded exchange with his mother, Barb Janda, following the confession, Dassey says, “They got in my head.” The teen later denied that he ever saw Halbach and said he had nothing to do with her murder.
A second season of the Netflix show is in production, but the streaming service has provided no information on when the new season will debut.