By Jessica Travis on Wednesday, May 18, 2016
In Netflix’s documentary miniseries “Making a Murder” main character Steven Avery’s nephew, Brendan Dassey was interviewed by police and gave a confession to assisting in the murder of Teresa Halbach. Brendan, a 16-year-old high school student with a very low IQ, was interrogated by police three times without a lawyer or his parents present.
“Making a Murder” documentary miniseries tell the story of Steven Avery, who after serving 18 years in prison for a rape he did not commit, was a free man, until the disappearance and murder of Teresa Halbach on October 31, 2005. Teresa’s car was found on the Avery property and Steven was arrested and charged with murder. Brendan was the sole alibi for Steven, and was the key defense witness. Brendan’s original statement was that he had had no contact with Teresa and no knowledge of what happened to her.
Four months after the murder, police went to Brendan’s high school, pulled him out of class and questioned him. They then questioned him 3 more times over the course of several days. Each of these interrogations was done without a lawyer present and without Brendan’s parents present. In the series, Brendan was told by a police officer that his mom had said it was “OK to talk to him.”
During a three-and-a-half-hour interview, the police used interrogation tactics to coerce Brendan to admit to assisting his uncle, Steven Avery, in the murder of Teresa Halbach. They used a theme of “honesty,” by asking Brendan to remember to be “honest” with them and to tell the truth.
In the documentary, it appeared that Brendan said what he thought the police wanted him to say. He did this without the presence of an attorney. It is important to remember that you have the right to have an attorney present when you are being questioned by the police. Most people do not know or fully understand that they have the right to remain silent and the right to have an attorney present.
Police often use interrogation tactics that may seem unfair, or even wrong, however, they are allowed to do this. They can lie to you, or tell you they have evidence against you that does not exist. They may act like your friend and try to get you to confess. Remember, their goal is not to be your friend, but to get a confession and to strengthen their case against you.
Once the police have probable cause to arrest you, there is generally nothing you can say that will make them change their mind. If you find yourself in a situation where the police have probable cause to arrest you, you have the right to remain silent if you choose. You are allowed to tell the police “I do not want to speak to you. I want to talk to my lawyer.”
If you have been arrested and you talked to the police, you may need to talk to an attorney to determine if the police did anything wrong when they got a statement from you. If they did, the attorney may be able to get the statement suppressed, or thrown out so that it cannot be used against you.
When choosing an attorney, you want to make sure that your attorney has experience and success in getting confessions suppressed. With the help of a qualified criminal defense attorney, who is knowledgeable in this aspect of the law, your rights can be upheld.