Making a Murderer Brings False Confessions to Light

Binging on Netflix is quickly becoming an American pastime. One of the most popular offerings on Netflix lately is Making a Murderer. The show chronicles the case of Steven Avery and his path from wrongfully accused and convicted to his release to his possible role in a violent murder. The show is definitely not without twists and turns, but if one thing is shocking, it is this: The story is 100% true.

In a life that sounds more fiction than reality, Steven Avery went from small-town boy to accused rapist. He then went from accused to convict, and he spent 17 years of his life in prison for a charge he was later acquitted of thanks to DNA evidence. Where the documentary picks up is perhaps the most interesting. The show features Brendan Dassey, Avery’s nephew, a somewhat learning disabled teenager who stands accused of conspiring to rape, murder and mutilate a woman in Wisconsin.

In the show, we see detectives feed Dassey tidbits about the crime in hopes of gaining a confession. The boy is questioned without his mother or an attorney present, and is noticeably upset at several points in the interview. He subsequently confesses to the rape, and then asks if he will be let go in time to turn his school project in. This makes it clear to most that Dassey has little idea of the seriousness of his situation.

What is troubling to some is that Dassey’s “false” confession is nothing new. Juveniles have an alarming rate of falsely confessing when current statistics are looked at. In 2013, a study was conducted that said 38% of exonerated juveniles’ cases involved false confessions. Because children and teenagers are still developing, they do not have the mental capacity or strength to withstand hours of interrogation or the tactics most often used by police.

Suggestions are currently that interrogations be recorded every time. It is also suggested that police undergo training in both how to identify a false confession and how to avoid goading children and adults into providing confessions that are not entirely based in truth. Whether these suggestions will be taken seriously and changes to our current law enforcement system will be made remains to be seen.

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