A federal appellate judge said the video of detectives interrogating Brendan Dassey made her "skin crawl” during a hearing on Tuesday.
The Wisconsin inmate, and convicted murderer, was featured in the Netflix series "Making A Murderer,” which argued for his innocence.
"The investigators made my skin crawl watching this video," Chief Judge Diane Wood, adding that Dassey seemed disoriented, and didn’t have a lawyer. "He is obviously racking his brain about how he can answer... in a way (investigators) will like.”
According to Fox32 Chicago, court filings reveal that Dassey’s IQ is about 80. Wood said it appears that Dassey didn't understand what was happening during the police questioning. She pointed to Dassey, then 16, asking a detective if he could go back to school after he “confessed” to taking part in the 2005 murder of photographer Teresa Halbach.
A federal magistrate judge overturned Dassey's conviction last year, stating that Dassey, now 27, was coerced to confess, and that police took advantage of his youth and cognitive disabilities.
The judges at the re-hearing at 7th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in Chicago on Tuesday were split. If they decide that Dassey’s confession wasn’t voluntary, he could be set free, but some judges were less sympathetic to Dassey than Wood.
Judge Diane Sykes stated that there were no laws against the techniques used in the interrogation. "Brendan Dassey confessed," Luke Berg, representing the state, said, "because his guilt became unbearable."
Both Dassey and his uncle Steven Avery are serving life sentences for the 2005 murder. The 2015 Netflix documentary series "Making A Murderer" raised questions about the conviction, leading many to believe that Avery and Dassey are innocent. The documentary suggested that police might have planted evidence on Avery’s property and that investigators took advantage of Dassey’s limited intellect to coax him into confessing.
Avery previously served 18 years in prison for the wrongful conviction of sexual assault and attempted murder of Penny Beerntsen, before being fully exonerated in 2003 through DNA evidence. He filed a suit against the county two years before he was arrested as a suspect in the Halbach murder.
Many authorities and prosecutors in Wisconsin have called the Netflix documentary bias, as reported by the New York Times. Avery is currently pursuing his own appeal to get out of prison.