‘Making a Murderer’ lawyer speaks at Xavier

By: Kyle Tooley ~Sports Editor~

Photo courtesy of northwestern.edu | Steven Drizin, front, and Laura Nirider, left, are representing Brendan Dassey, back, in his post-conviction trial.

Providing examples that were depicted in the famed Netflix docu-series Making a Murderer, Steven Drizin, a member of one of the subject’s post-conviction team, spoke to a group of Xavier students on Friday night about the dangers of false confessions in interrogations. The event, “Brendan Dassey: A True Story of False Confession,” was put on by the Xavier chapter of the Ohio Innocence Project.

Drizin and Laura Nirider, his partner in the Dassey case and the co-director of the Center of Wrongful Convictions of Youth, have visited various universities across the Midwest lecturing on what to watch out for in interrogations. Though Dassey is their most notable client, the two have represented youth all over the country who have found themselves in similar situations.

The lecture used video of Dassey’s interrogation with detectives Tom Fassbender and Mark Wiegert and showed the different tactics they used to make Dassey “say what they wanted to hear,” according to Drizin. Drizin then gave students some pointers on how to act if they were in that situation, noting that there are a few dead giveaways to tell if someone is lying, or even overly anxious, in an interrogation.

Drizin, who is also the assistant dean of the Northwestern Pritzker School of Law’s Bluhm Legal Clinic and the former Legal Director of the Center of Wrongful Convictions of Youth, is representing Dassey in his ongoing case in Wisconsin.

Dassey, who was charged with first-degree murder, second- degree sexual assault and the mutilation of a corpse in April of 2007, was allegedly coerced into confessing to the crime during the interrogations in late February of 2006.

Dassey was just 16 years old at the time of the interrogations and suffers from a severe learning disability, posting an IQ in the low 70s.

In August of 2016, U.S. Magistrate Judge William Duffin overturned Dassey’s conviction, stating that his confession was “involuntary and unconstitutionally coerced.” Exactly one month later, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit blocked Dassey’s release by filing an emergency appeal.

Drizin told students he believes that Dassey had nothing to do with the murder of Teresa Halbach, the 25-year-old photographer for Autotrader Magazine who was killed on the Dassey family’s property.

The lectures that Drizin gives to college students are all about education and sharing his insight on how police officers and detectives can coerce confessions.

The examples he provided, outside of Dassey, were of regular adolescents who wanted to escape the pressure that the police were piling on them.

“It was definitely an interesting lecture,” senior Michael Karpinski said. “Hearing about false confessions and the legal process behind those cases offered a lot of insight. It’s something you don’t think about too often, but it can happen to anyone.”

Drizin expects a verdict on the appeal sometime during the summer.