Experts weigh in on what's next in the Brendan Dassey case

Posted at 10:38 PM, Feb 17, 2017
and last updated 2017-02-17 23:38:42-05
Experts say it could be months before the panel of three federal judges in the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago make a decision on whether the federal magistrate judge's ruling that overturned Brendan Dassey's conviction last August should stand.
NBC26 was in Chicago on Tuesday as the judges heard arguments from both sides. The state maintained that Dassey's confession to the 2005 murder of photographer Teresa Halbach was voluntary.
"Brendan Dassey chose to confess, to release those terrible images of Teresa Halbach that were haunting him. The investigators encouraged him to get it out but did not apply any improper pressure," said Deputy Solicitor General Luke Berg.
State attorneys also argued that Dassey provided information to investigators that only he would know if he were at the scene of the crime in Manitowoc County.
During the hearing, the defense argued that Dassey, who was 16-years-old at the time, had a low I.Q. which made him unable to understand what it meant to confess. They also claimed that interrogators made false promises of leniency and fed Dassey facts about the case to coerce a confession.
"They teach him. They teach him the answer that they're looking for," said Dassey's attorney, Laura Nirider.
Legal analyst Avi Berk predicts it could take until the end of this summer before the three judges issue their written decision. After that, either side could file a petition to have the full Circuit Court of Appeals hear the case. They could even take it all the way to nation's highest court, but the justices have the option not to hear the case.
Berk says, "I don't know that this raises enough novel or interesting issues that it would go to the Supreme Court." 
If the federal magistrate judge's ruling last year that tossed out Dassey's confession and conviction is upheld, the state will have to decide whether it wants Dassey to go on trial again.
"I'm not sure if the state has enough evidence to convict Brendan Dassey beyond a reasonable doubt without his confession," said Berk.
Former Special Prosecutor Ken Kratz isn't so sure. "Only one of the six confessions, or one of the six statements I should say, that Brendan Dassey made is up for consideration today. If the state loses, the state still has five statements," he told a group of reporters at Tuesday's hearing.
The state has yet to say if it would pursue a retrial.
As far as the U.S. Supreme Court is concerned, Berk says the justices only choose to hear a small percentage of appeals. If Dassey's case makes it that far, and the justices accept it, Berk says it would likely take about a year before a decision would be issued.