US appeals court overturns conviction of 'Making a Murderer' inmate

June 22 (Reuters) - A federal appeals court on Thursday affirmed a decision to overturn the murder conviction of Brendan Dassey, a Wisconsin man serving a life sentence whose case was chronicled in the popular Netflix television documentary "Making a Murderer."

A three-judge panel of the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago ruled 2-1 to uphold a federal judge's ruling last year that overturned Dassey's conviction for a 2005 murder.

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Steven Avery and Brendan Dassey -- 'Making a Murderer' convictions
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Steven Avery and Brendan Dassey -- 'Making a Murderer' convictions
Brendan Dassey is pictured in this undated booking photo obtained by Reuters January 29, 2016. Manitowoc County Sheriff's Department/Handout via Reuters THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. IT IS DISTRIBUTED, EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS
Steven Avery is pictured in this undated booking photo obtained by Reuters January 29, 2016. The television documentary "Making a Murderer," -- from the case against Avery and Brendan Dassey, who were convicted of killing freelance photographer Teresa Halbach in 2005 -- has put Manitowoc on the map. REUTERS/Manitowoc County Sheriff's Department/Handout via Reuters THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. IT IS DISTRIBUTED, EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS
A mural of a Budweiser bottle and two Budweiser cans painted on a malt plant overlooks downtown Manitowoc, Wisconsin, January 18, 2016. The television documentary "Making a Murderer," -- from the case against Steven Avery and Brendan Dassey, who were convicted of killing freelance photographer Teresa Halbach in 2005 -- has put Manitowoc on the map. Picture taken January 18, 2016. REUTERS/Brendan O'Brien
Federal appeals court upholds ruling that overturned the murder conviction of Brendan Dassey, from "Making a Murder… https://t.co/qRs1JfDkXW
:: BREAKING NOW: Federal appeals court rules 2-1 Brendan Dassey conviction should be thrown out. #MakingAMurderer https://t.co/IoNCslNcaH
Federal court upholds decision overturning #MakingAMurderer subject Brendan Dassey's conviction… https://t.co/vwAY3OEJbB
Judges affirm "Making a Murderer" confession was improperly obtained, Brendan Dassey should be released from prison… https://t.co/J2DmNC1MRH
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Magistrate Judge William Duffin had ruled in August that the conviction was based on a coerced confession that Dassey, now 27, gave as a 16-year-old with a learning disability. Duffin ordered Dassey freed in November, but his release was halted while Wisconsin authorities appealed the decision.

"THIS JUST IN," Dassey's attorney Steven Drizin tweeted on Thursday. "7th Circuit AFFIRMS Judge Duffin in 2-1 decision. This round goes to Brendan Dassey 2-1."

The judges' three-sentence judgment ordered Dassey freed unless Wisconsin elected to retry him within 90 days or appealed the ruling.

Johnny Koremenos, a spokesman for Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel, said his office was evaluating the decision.

"We anticipate seeking review by the entire 7th Circuit or the United States Supreme Court and hope that today's erroneous decision will be reversed," he said in an email.

Dassey and his uncle, Steven Avery, were convicted in separate trials of killing freelance photographer Teresa Halbach at Avery's home and scrap yard. Her charred remains were found in an incineration barrel and a burn pit on Avery's property, about 80 miles (130 km) north of Milwaukee.

A jury in 2007 found Dassey guilty of first-degree intentional homicide, second-degree sexual assault and mutilation of a corpse. Avery was convicted of first-degree intentional homicide and unlawful possession of a firearm as a felon. Both were sentenced to life in prison.

The case was the subject of the 10-part documentary "Making a Murderer," which questioned the handling of the investigation and the motives of Manitowoc County law enforcement officials.

The documentary recounted how Avery was convicted of an earlier, unrelated rape and sent to prison in 1985, serving 18 years before DNA evidence exonerated him and he was released.

He filed a $36 million federal lawsuit against the county, its former sheriff and district attorney in 2004. A year later, he and Dassey were accused of killing Halbach.

The Emmy-winning documentary suggested that authorities planted evidence against both defendants, a claim rejected by the current sheriff. (Reporting by Ian Simpson in Washington; Editing by Leslie Adler)


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