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Judge orders release of Making A Murderer figure Brendan Dassey

Published 14/11/2016

Brendan Dassey's supervised release is contingent upon him meeting multiple conditions (AP)
Brendan Dassey's supervised release is contingent upon him meeting multiple conditions (AP)

A judge has ordered the release from federal prison of a man whose homicide conviction was overturned in a case profiled in the Netflix series Making A Murderer.

Brendan Dassey's release was ordered by US Magistrate Judge William Duffin even as prosecutors appealed against the judge's earlier ruling overturning Mr Dassey's conviction.

It is not clear how quickly Mr Dassey will be released. He faces a deadline of noon on Tuesday to provide information on where he will live.

Wisconsin attorney general Brad Schimel promised to file an emergency motion in the 7th US Circuit Court of Appeals to keep him behind bars.

Judge Duffin ruled in August that investigators tricked Mr Dassey into confessing he helped his uncle, Steven Avery, rape, kill and mutilate photographer Teresa Halbach in 2005. The state has appealed against that ruling and argued Mr Dassey should remain in prison while it is pending.

Mr Dassey was convicted of first-degree intentional homicide, second-degree sexual assault and mutilating a corpse. He was sentenced to life in prison in 2007. Court documents describe him as a slow learner who had poor grades and has difficulty understanding language and speaking.

In his August ruling, Judge Duffin said investigators made specific promises of leniency to Mr Dassey and that no "fair-minded jurists could disagree". Mr Schimel, in his appeal, said investigators did not promise leniency and they specifically told Mr Dassey no promises could be made.

Lawyers are in the process of filing legal briefs in the appeal, which is expected to be argued some time next year.

State prosecutors argued that until then, Mr Dassey should remain in prison because he is a serious threat to public safety. But Judge Duffin cited his "exceedingly benign" prison disciplinary record and the fact that he had no convictions before the Halbach case.

Mr Dassey, now 27, was 16 when Ms Halbach was killed.

The judge ordered him released as soon as the federal probation office approves where he is going to live and "completes whatever additional investigation it deems necessary". Mr Dassey's lawyer, Steve Drizin, said he did not know how long that would take but he hoped Mr Dassey would be free by Thanksgiving, 10 days away.

"That's what I'm focused on right now, getting him home, getting him with his family and then helping him to reintegrate back into society while his appeal plays out," Mr Drizin said.

Given that his family lives in north-east Wisconsin, there is little chance Mr Dassey will try to flee, the judge said. Under the judge's order, he would be forbidden from having contact with Avery or Ms Halbach's family.

Mr Dassey would have to meet numerous other conditions, including reporting to a probation officer, not owning a gun or other weapon, being available for home visits and getting approval before moving. Any travel outside eastern Wisconsin would have to be approved by the court and Mr Dassey could not get a passport.

Ms Halbach was killed after she visited the Avery family's salvage yard in Manitowoc County. Investigators allege Avery lured her there by asking her to take photos of a minivan.

Avery was convicted in a separate trial and was also sentenced to life in prison. He is pursuing his own appeal.

Their cases gained national attention after Netflix aired Making A Murderer last year. The series spawned widespread conjecture about the pair's innocence. Authorities who worked on the cases said the series was biased, but it generated calls from the public to free both men.

AP

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