By SCOTT BAUER
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — A man convicted of rape and murder when he was a teenager and whose story was documented in the 2015 Netflix series “Making a Murderer” is asking Wisconsin’s governor for a pardon or commutation of his life sentence, attorneys said on Wednesday.
Brendan Dassey was 16 years old when he confessed to Wisconsin authorities that he had joined his uncle, Steve Avery, in the rape and murder in 2015 of the photographer Teresa Halbach, before burning her body in a bonfire.
Avery and Dassey are serving life sentences. The U.S. Supreme Court last year, without comment, said they would not consider Dassey’s appeal of his conviction. He could request another trial if a judge agrees he has new evidence that warrants a new one.
His chances of receiving a pardon seems remote. Gov. Tony Evers, a Democrat, re-started Wisconsin’s pardons board this year after his predecessor, Scott Walker, brought it to a halt, but Evers said applicants must have completed their entire sentences and that he won’t consider commuting sentences.
Evers’ spokeswoman, Melissa Baldauff, did not immediately return a message seeking comment.
Dassey’s attorneys say he’s borderline intellectually disabled and that he was manipulated by experienced police officers into accepting their story of how Halbach’s murder happened. They wanted his confession thrown out and a new trial.
At Dassey’s trial, video of his confession to investigators played a central role. Authorities had no physical evidence tying Dassey to the crimes, and he testified that his confession was “made up,” but a jury convicted him anyway. He can receive parole in 2048.
Wisconsin prosecutors have long held that Dassey’s confession was voluntary. Prosecutors noted that Dassey’s mother gave investigators permission to speak with him, that Dassey agreed as well and that, during the interview, investigators used only standard techniques such as adopting a sympathetic tone and encouraging honesty.
Avery, for his part, had spent 18 years in prison for a different rape before DNA testing exonerated him. After his release, he filed a multimillion dollar lawsuit over his conviction, but he was arrested in 2005 and later convicted of Halbach’s murder even as that lawsuit was still pending. Avery maintains he was framed.
Avery’s request for a new trial was rejected by a Wisconsin circuit court judge in August.
A three-judge appeals court panel said in 2017 that Dassey should be retried or released from prison. But later that year the full appeals court on a 4-3 decision upheld the earlier ruling that Dassey’s confession was voluntary. That decision remains in place after the U.S. Supreme Court refused to take the case.
Evers is considering granting pardons after his predecessor, Scott Walker, refused to issue any during his eight years in office. Evers has yet to act on any pardon requests.