A federal court in Wisconsin has overturned the conviction of Brendan Dassey, who was found guilty of helping his uncle Steven Avery murder Teresa Halbach, the Associated Press reports. The case was featured in the popular Netflix documentary Making a Murderer, which debuted last December.
According to the AP, the U.S. District Court in Milwaukee on Friday, August 12, ordered Dassey to be freed from prison within 90 days unless the case is appealed. He has been held at the Columbia Correctional Institute in Portage, Wisconsin, since January.
As seen in the documentary, Dassey confessed to his involvement in the rape and murder of Halbach in 2005, and two years later, he was sentenced to life in prison with a chance for parole in 2048. Halbach, a freelance photographer, came to take pictures of some vehicles at the Avery family’s auto salvage yard, and she was never seen again. Her car and her remains were found on the Averys’ property.
Dassey was only 16 years old at the time of the homicide, and his attorneys argued that his confession was coerced because he did not have a lawyer or adult present at the time.
The court ruled Friday that Dassey’s confession was “involuntary” based on “false promises” by investigators, according to ABC News. Other factors in the decision to overturn the conviction included “Dassey’s age, intellectual deficits, and the absence of a supportive adult.”
Avery was tried and convicted separately in the murder case. He was sentenced to life in prison without parole, which he continues to appeal. Avery believes that the Manitowoc County Police Department planted evidence against him because he was then in the midst of a lawsuit against the department for a wrongful conviction. He was previously convicted of rape and spent almost 20 years behind bars before he was exonerated through DNA testing.