What are ‘Making a Murderer’ subject Brendan Dassey’s chances of getting a pardon?

Gov. Evers vows to consider application

A 29-year-old man whose murder conviction was documented in the Netflix original series “Making a Murderer” is looking to Wisconsin’s governor to forgive him of the crimes of which he has been convicted.

“I am writing to ask for a pardon because I am innocent and want to go home,” Dassey wrote in a letter to Gov. Tony Evers. “If I would get to go home, I would like to get a job involving video games. I would like to help take care of my mom and one day have a son and a daughter of my own.”

The attorneys for Dassey announced Wednesday they filed a petition for executive clemency with Evers’ office. The 26-page application seeks a pardon, which restores the rights of someone who has been convicted of a felony, or a commutation, which reduces a person’s sentence.

This is a handwritten letter from @MakingAMurderer subject Brendan Dassey to @GovEvers. “I am writing to ask for a pardon because I am innocent and want to go home,” Dassey writes. #news3now pic.twitter.com/9LWSYxmc5l

— Rose Schmidt (@RoseSchmidtTV) October 3, 2019

“This is a case that federal judges have called a profound miscarriage of justice, and we’re calling on Gov. Evers to remedy that injustice today,” said Laura Nirider, one of Dassey’s attorneys and a co-director for the Center on Wrongful Convictions.

At age 16, Dassey confessed to helping his uncle, Steven Avery, murder Teresa Halbach in Manitowoc County in 2005. Now 29, Dassey is serving a life sentence in prison. He testified that his confession was “made up” but was still convicted by a jury.

Nirider and Dassey’s other attorneys told reporters at the Park Hotel in Madison on Wednesday that Dassey is innocent. They argue that there was no evidence connecting Dassey to the crime scene and his confession to authorities in 2006 was coerced. Video of Dassey’s confession was a key part of his trial.

“There wasn’t anything subtle about the way the investigators broke Brendan’s will. They used standard psychological tactics … tactics which can be toxic and can produce false confessions, especially when applied to the young and vulnerable suspects like Brendan,” said attorney Steven Drizin.

Rules from the state’s Pardon Advisory Board, appointed by Evers, show someone is only eligible for a pardon in Wisconsin if they completed a sentence for a felony conviction five or more years ago. Dassey does not meet the criteria because he is serving a life sentence.

But a statement from Evers’ office Wednesday said, “We give every pardon application careful review and consideration.” The office confirmed it had received Dassey’s legal team’s application.

Evers also told reporters at the World Dairy Expo that his board gives consideration to many cases that would otherwise be rejected.

When he took office this year, Evers restored the pardon process in Wisconsin for the first time in 10 years. His predecessor, former Gov. Scott Walker, did not issue any pardons over his two terms in office.

Who is Dassey?

Dassey’s attorneys and other speakers at the Wednesday news conference painted a picture of a model inmate who colors pictures for his family and lawyers from prison.

These are pictures the attorneys for @MakingAMurderer subject Brendan Dassey say he colored from prison for his legal team and for his family. #news3now pic.twitter.com/KvUqVU5IfC

— Rose Schmidt (@RoseSchmidtTV) October 3, 2019

Kasia Majerczak, a licensed clinical social worker, said she has spoken to Dassey on the phone at least once a week for the last three years. She said he was moved from a maximum-security facility to a medium-security facility and has held many jobs in prison.

“He does not have a violent bone in his body,” Majerczak said.

Majerczak said Dassey loves Pokemon and cares deeply about his family. She described him as kind and caring.

“Without being asked, he regularly takes on the job of pushing the wheelchairs of geriatric inmates who need help getting around,” Majerczak said.

The pardon application also describes Dassey as having an intellectual disability, saying he was in special education classes in high school.

“Who could forget that after confessing to murder, Brendan asked, ‘Can I go back to school to finish a project that’s due in the sixth hour?” Drizin asked.

The application reads: “Brendan Dassey was a sixteen-year-old, intellectually disabled child when he was taken form his school and subjected to a uniquely and profoundly flawed legal process. That process rightly sought justice for Teresa Halbach, but it wrongly took a confused child’s freedom in payment for her loss.”

Dassey’s lawyers said they are closely following Avery’s case and while they will “never say never” about going back to the courts to try and overturn Dassey’s convictions, they appear to be at an impasse.

Last year, the U.S. Supreme Court said it would not consider Dassey’s appeal. If new evidence comes to light, he could request a new trial. He will not be eligible for parole until 2048.

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