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Is Brendan Dassey Still in Prison?

Brendan Dassey is a convicted murderer who was featured in the Netflix documentary series Making a Murderer. Dassey and his uncle, Steven Avery, were convicted of murdering 25-year-old Teresa Halbach in 2005. The documentary cast doubt on the legal proceedings and Dassey’s confession to the murder. Currently, Dassey is still in prison but has been pursuing options to overturn his conviction.

Background on the Teresa Halbach Murder Case

On October 31, 2005, photographer Teresa Halbach disappeared after being called to the Avery Salvage Yard to photograph a vehicle for Auto Trader magazine. Halbach’s last known stop was at Steven Avery’s trailer. Her charred remains were later found in a burn pit on Avery’s property.

Steven Avery became the prime suspect as he was the last known person to see Halbach alive. Suspicion also fell upon Avery’s 16-year-old nephew, Brendan Dassey. Over the course of multiple interrogations, investigators obtained a confession from Dassey that implicated him and Avery in the rape, murder and mutilation of Halbach.

In 2007, Dassey was convicted of first-degree intentional homicide, second-degree sexual assault, and mutilation of a corpse. He was sentenced to life in prison with eligibility for parole in 2048.

Key Events in the Teresa Halbach Murder Case

Oct 31, 2005Teresa Halbach goes missing after visiting Avery Salvage Yard
Nov 5, 2005Halbach’s vehicle found concealed at Avery Salvage Yard
Nov 8, 2005Charred bone fragments found in Avery’s burn pit
Feb 27, 2006Brendan Dassey confesses to assisting Avery in rape and murder of Halbach
March 2, 2007Steven Avery found guilty of 1st-degree intentional homicide
April 25, 2007Brendan Dassey found guilty by jury on all counts

Is Brendan Dassey Currently in Prison?

Yes, as of September 2023, Brendan Dassey remains in prison. He is incarcerated at Columbia Correctional Institution, a maximum-security prison in Portage, Wisconsin.

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Dassey was arrested and charged in March 2006 at the age of 16. After being convicted in 2007, Dassey filed multiple appeals and habeas corpus petitions aimed at overturning his conviction. However, so far these efforts have been unsuccessful and his conviction has been upheld.

Brendan Dassey is now 33 years old. He has been in prison for over 15 years since his arrest and conviction in the murder of Teresa Halbach. Unless his conviction is someday overturned, he will remain incarcerated until at least 2048, when he will be eligible for parole at the age of 59.

Dassey’s Appeals and Attempts to Overturn Conviction

Since his conviction in 2007, Brendan Dassey has made numerous attempts through the court system to have his conviction overturned:

State Appeals

  • 2009 – Dassey’s conviction upheld by Wisconsin Court of Appeals
  • 2010 – Wisconsin Supreme Court declines to hear Dassey’s appeal

Post-Conviction Appeals

  • 2014 – Motion for post-conviction relief denied
  • 2017 – Wisconsin Court of Appeals affirms denial of post-conviction relief

Federal Habeas Corpus Petitions

  • 2014 – Petition for writ of habeas corpus filed in federal court
  • 2016 – Federal magistrate judge overturns conviction, ruling that confession was involuntary
  • 2017 – Appeals court blocks Dassey’s release from prison
  • 2018 – En banc panel upholds state conviction in 4-3 vote
  • 2019 – U.S. Supreme Court refuses to hear the case

So while Dassey has managed to successfully appeal his case to lower federal courts, ultimately the appeals court and Supreme Court have declined to overturn his state court conviction.

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Why Are Dassey’s Conviction Appeals Unsuccessful?

There are a few key reasons why Brendan Dassey’s attempts to overturn his conviction in the Teresa Halbach murder have ultimately been unsuccessful:

  • State courts uphold confession – State courts ruled that Dassey’s confession was legally obtained and admissible. They argue it was not coerced by investigators.
  • Conflicting expert testimony – Expert witnesses and analysis conflict on whether Dassey’s confession fits criteria for a false or coerced confession.
  • Deference to state courts – Federal appeals courts are reluctant to overturn state criminal verdicts and show deference to state court decisions.
  • Narrow grounds for habeas relief – The grounds for federal habeas relief are narrow, making it difficult to overturn a state conviction. Courts rule that errors must be extreme and substantial.
  • AEDPA standards – The Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA) imposes high standards for federal courts to overturn state convictions.

Ultimately, Dassey’s lawyers have not been able to sufficiently prove the confession was involuntary or that his constitutional rights were violated under the strict standards imposed by AEDPA and federal habeas law.

What Legal Options Remain for Dassey?

While Dassey has exhausted most of his direct appeals, there remain a few possible options that could potentially lead to his conviction being overturned or him being released:

  • Clemency petition – Dassey could petition the governor for clemency or a pardon based on doubts about his guilt. However, this rarely happens.
  • New evidence – If compelling new evidence of his innocence is discovered, Dassey could file motions for a new trial.
  • Change in the law – Developments in Constitutional law could open up new avenues to challenge his confession or conviction.
  • Habeas petition on new grounds – New Supreme Court rulings could enable habeas challenges on grounds previously unavailable.
  • Parole – Dassey will be eligible for parole in 2048 after serving his full sentence. The parole board could agree to release him.
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However, the prospects of any of these leading to Dassey’s release in the near future are uncertain at best. Overturning a conviction after exhausting appeals is extremely rare.


In summary, despite questions being raised about the reliability of his confession and conviction, Brendan Dassey remains incarcerated in a Wisconsin state prison after being convicted of murdering Teresa Halbach in 2005. He was sentenced to life in prison and will not be eligible for parole until 2048.

Dassey has unsuccessfully pursued appeals and habeas corpus petitions seeking to have his conviction overturned up to the Supreme Court level. However, state and federal courts have consistently upheld the validity of his confession and trial. While there are limited remaining legal options, the prospects for release before 2048 remain low unless new evidence or developments in the law occur. For now, Dassey continues to serve his sentence in the Columbia Correctional Institution in Wisconsin.

Prison Inside Team

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Welcome to ‘Prison Inside,’ a blog dedicated to shedding light on the often hidden and misunderstood world within correctional facilities. Through firsthand accounts, personal narratives, and insightful reflections, we delve into the lives of those who find themselves behind bars, offering a unique perspective on the challenges, triumphs, and transformations that unfold within the confines of these walls.

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