Opinion by Kristin Wenstrom and Jee Park
At age 16, Brendan Dassey was aggressively interrogated by police officers in Wisconsin over a 48-hour period. Most of the time, Brendan sat slumped over with a blank look on his face. Officers coached, corrected and cajoled the teen until he finally took their cues and gave them the answers they wanted to hear. Once he unwittingly confessed to a horrific crime, he asked if he could go back to school to finish a project.
Brendan, whose story was featured on the Netflix hit series “Making a Murderer,” was sentenced as a child to life in prison based solely on his false confession. His attorneys have since appealed his conviction, arguing that Brendan’s confession was not voluntarily given and is false.
On Monday (June 25), the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear Brendan’s case – a troubling decision not only for Brendan, but also for other young people like him.
Brendan’s confession is not an anomaly among kids. In Louisiana, more than half of the people who have been freed or exonerated because of false confessions were teenagers when they made their statements. Overall, children are four times more likely than adults to falsely confess.
In the past week, our client Gerald Manning was released from Angola after being wrongfully incarcerated for nearly 41 years for a crime that occurred when he was just 17. Gerald was convicted of murder and rape based solely on false statements he made in circumstances that mirror Brendan’s interrogation. No other evidence linked the teen to the crime.