Since premiering on Netflix last December, Making a Murderer has generated nationwide attention. The true-crime docuseries re-examined the 2005 killing of Wisconsin woman Teresa Halbach, a case that ultimately led to the trial and conviction of Steven Avery and his then-16-year-old nephew Brendan Dassey. The show exposed several alleged flaws in the investigation, and much of America responded with outrage: petitions calling for the pardon of both Avery and Dassey eventually amassed so many signatures that the White House was obligated to issue a response. Authorities involved in the proceedings have since slammed filmmakers Moira Demos and Laura Ricciardi’s framing as biased, and have remained vocal skeptics.
In the ensuing months, legal teams have also dredged up the decade-old case. An Illinois law firm announced plans to represent Avery in January, and Judge William Duffin overturned Dassey’s conviction in August. He ruled that investigators had unconstitutionally coerced a confession using deceptive tactics, and gave prosecutors 90 days to decide whether to retry Dassey in court. Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel did file a notice of appeal in September, calling the decision "wrong on the facts and wrong on the law."
Despite the appeal, Dassey's lawyers petitioned the court to release him on the grounds that he did not pose a danger to the community and was not likely to run away. Now, a judge has granted that petition and ordered Dassey be released from prison, as NBC reported on Monday. The following is the statement from Northwestern University’s Center on Wrongful Convictions of Youth:
"We are in the process of making arrangements for his release and hope that Brendan will be reunited with his family by Thanksgiving, if not sooner. We urge everyone to respect Brendan’s privacy during this time of transition.”
The release hinges upon several conditions. Dassey, now 27, can only travel in the court's Eastern District of Wisconsin, cannot obtain a passport, cannot possess a gun or any other weapons, and cannot possess any controlled substances. He also cannot contact the family of Teresa Halbach, nor his uncle Steven Avery, who remains incarcerated at Waupun Correctional Institute. Schimel has already said he intends to file an emergency motion in the Seventh Circuit "seeking a stay of this release order,” according to the Associated Press. At the time of publication, the date of Dassey’s official release has not yet been announced.
The news hits several months after Netflix unveiled details about Making a Murderer’s upcoming second season, which will explore “the high-stakes post-conviction process, as well as the emotional toll the process takes on all involved,” according to a press release.
With the aftermath of the case now playing out regularly in major media, much of those details will already be common knowledge, but it will likely provide a more human side to the story. Some of the most poignant scenes in Making a Murderer season 1 involved both Avery and Dassey’s families grappling with their convictions, and one can only imagine the impact these recent developments have made. Whether or not you believe Avery and Dassey are guilty, it’s gripping to watch as the story continues to unfold.
A release date for Making a Murderer season 2 has not yet been announced.