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Federal court overturns conviction, orders release teen of featured in ‘Making a Murderer’

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MADISON, Wis. — A federal court in Wisconsin has overturned the conviction of a man found guilty of helping his uncle kill Teresa Halbach in a case profiled in the Netflix documentary “Making of a Murderer.”

The U.S. District Court in Milwaukee on Friday overturned Brendan Dassey’s conviction and ordered him freed within 90 days unless the case is appealed. He’s been incarcerated for 10 years.

Dassey confessed to helping his uncle Steven Avery carry out the rape and murder of Halbach, but attorneys argued that the confession was coerced.

The judge said in his ruling that the “repeated false promises, when considered in conjunction with all relevant factors, most especially Dassey’s age, intellectual deficits, and the absence of a supportive adult, rendered Dassey’s confession involuntary” under the U.S. Constitution.

Dassey was 16 when Halbach was killed in 2005 after she went to the Avery family auto salvage yard to photograph some vehicles. Avery was tried and convicted separately in the homicide. He is serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole.

Dassey’s case burst into the public’s consciousness with the popularity of the “Making of a Murderer” documentary.

“Making a Murderer” debuted on Netflix in December and quickly gripped holiday binge-watchers. It told the complicated story of Avery, who is serving a life sentence in Wisconsin after spending 18 years behind bars because of a wrongful conviction in a separate case. The show called into question his current conviction.

The buzz around the series even led some viewers to petition President Obama to pardon Avery and other networks to do their own followup specials months later.

Netflix, however, isn’t keen on letting other networks have the last word. It promises that the new episodes will provide “exclusive access” to Avery’s legal team and “intimate access to the families and characters close to the case.”

Filmmakers Laura Ricciardi and Moira Demos will once again headline the project.

In January, four weeks after the series was released, Ricciardi and Demos said they had been following the updates in the case but had yet to get an official order for more episodes. They also said they were exploring the possibility of using the “Making” banner to explore new stories as well.

The decision by the filmmakers to continue following the Avery thread is not unlike the approach Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky took to their three “Paradise Lost” documentaries, which explored the case of the West Memphis Three.

In that case, three teenagers were convicted of the murders of three young boys, but were later released. Their story was told in three films between 1996 and 2011.