Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Convicting Avery (and Dassey)

I've heard a lot of nonsense come out of the mouths of government agents, but this is rich.  You can hear the oral arguments in the state's appeal of Dassey's case here.  The government's lawyer is trying to sell the same nonsense to the Seventh Circuit that the agents sold to Dassey in their interrogation, e.g., "they were just after 'the truth' your honors."  The lawyer also claims there were not even implied promises of leniency made to Dassey.  (I guess promising Dassey that he wouldn't be arrested if he agreed to confess doesn't count as a direct or even implied promise of leniency.)  If you go to Netflix and watch episode three of Making a Murderer, you can see part of the interrogation as well as Larry White's explanation of how the interrogators' repeated directives to "tell us the truth" really meant "tell us what we want to hear."  (And, to guide Dassey in the right direction, they even told him what, specifically, they wanted to hear.)

You can also find all recorded interrogations in Avery's and Dassey's cases here.  You can find my article with Larry White on false confessions, here.  And I have a chapter on Dassey's interrogation and so-called confession in my forthcoming book Convicting Avery, here.  Finally, I wouldn't be surprised with any of the possible outcomes for Dassey's appeal.  But I'd be willing to bet that if the state wins, the victory will be based on the incredibly irrational and bizarre federal standard of appeal.  I wrote in the Postscript of my book:

It seems odd that Dassey’s entire life should hinge not on whether the state appellate court got it wrong, but rather the degree to which it got it wrong. This bizarre scenario seems more like the product of a Twilight Zone episode than of a modern system of criminal justice. The linguists of the whole thing—whether the appellate court was “merely wrong” or “so wrong”—reminds me of the comic strip where the trial judge, a cat, asks the defendant, a dog, whether he pleads “guilty,” “really guilty,” or “really, really guilty.” The difference between Dassey’s case and the comic strip, of course, is that the seemingly meaningless distinction in Dassey’s case actually makes all the difference in the world.


  1. Looking forward to reading your book!

  2. Thanks! The book is now available. See this post for a link to amazon and to several book reviews. http://thelegalwatchdog.blogspot.com/2017/04/convicting-avery-bizarre-laws-and.html