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'Making a Murderer' nephew could be released in time for Thanksgiving

A US magistrate judge on Monday ordered Brendan Dassey be released from prison pending prosecutors' appeal, after finding in August that investigators tricked Mr. Dassey into confessing to helping his uncle commit murder.

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    Brendan Dassey (l.) listens to testimony at the Manitowoc County Courthouse in Manitowoc, Wis., Jan. 19, 2010. Mr. Dassey, whose homicide conviction was overturned in a case profiled in the Netflix series 'Making a Murderer' was ordered released Monday, from federal prison while prosecutors appeal.
    Sue Pischke/Herald Times Reporter/AP/File
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A man whose homicide conviction was overturned in a case profiled in the Netflix series "Making a Murderer," was ordered released Monday from federal prison while prosecutors appeal.

US Magistrate Judge William Duffin ordered Brendan Dassey's release contingent upon him meeting multiple conditions. The judge ruled in August that investigators tricked Mr. Dassey into confessing he helped his uncle, Steven Avery, rape, kill, and mutilate photographer Teresa Halbach in 2005. The state has appealed that ruling.

Dassey's attorney, Steve Drizin, said he had not spoken yet with Dassey, but he hoped to have him out of prison in time to spend Thanksgiving with his family.

"That's what I'm focused on right now, getting him home, getting him with his family and then helping him to re-integrate back into society while his appeal plays out," Mr. Drizin said.

Dassey's case gained national attention after Netflix aired "Making a Murderer" last year. The series spawned widespread conjecture about his and Mr. Avery's innocence. Authorities who worked on the cases said the series was biased, but it generated calls from the public to free both men, as The Christian Science Monitor previously reported.

Although the documentary has effectively galvanized the public interest in criminal justice, authorities have criticized the medium as both inappropriate and biased.

"Anytime you edit 18 months' worth of information and only include the statements or pieces that support your particular conclusion, that conclusion should be reached,” said Ken Kratz, the prosecutor in Mr. Avery's case. 

Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel issued a statement saying he would file an emergency motion in the 7th US Circuit Court of Appeals to put the release order on hold.

Dassey's supervised release was not immediate. He had until noon Tuesday to provide the federal probation and parole office with the address of where he planned to live.

Drizin would not say where Dassey plans to live.

Mike Halbach, Teresa's brother, and Barb Janda, Dassey's mother, did not return calls for comment.

Dassey was 16 when Halbach died. He's now 27.

Duffin ruled in August that investigators made specific promises of leniency to Dassey and that no "fair-minded jurists could disagree." He cited one investigator's comment early in the interview that "you don't have to worry about things," plus repeated comments like "it's OK" and that they already knew what happened.

Schimel, in his appeal, said investigators didn't promise leniency and they specifically told Dassey that no promises could be made.

Halbach was killed on Halloween 2005, after she visited the Avery family's salvage yard in Manitowoc County. Investigators allege Avery lured her there by asking her to take photos of a minivan. Dassey was sentenced to life in prison in 2007. Court documents describe him as a slow learner who had poor grades and has difficulty understanding language and speaking. Avery was convicted in a separate trial and was also sentenced to life in prison. He's pursuing his own appeal.

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