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‘Making a Murderer’: How Brendan Dassey’s case is making a difference

Brendan Dassey was featured in "Making a Murderer." Photo by Dan Powers/AP

When cases like Brendan Dassey’s are examined, many see a pressing need to rethink the definition of coercion and the law of voluntariness, especially in cases involving minors. Steven Drizin and Laura Nirider, professors at Northwestern Pritzker School of Law and attorneys at its Center on Wrongful Convictions of Youth featured in Netflix’s “Making a Murderer,” talk about false confessions and the legal proceedings covered in the series’ second season.

In this episode of Planet Lex, Northwestern Law vice dean and host Jim Speta talks to Drizin and Nirider about what has happened in their client Dassey’s case since season one and discuss options available to him as he continues to seek release. They also talk about the involvement of Northwestern Law’s clinical students in cases like Dassey’s, as well as their efforts to protect vulnerable juveniles by educating law enforcement on appropriate interrogation practices with children.


“I was the first student Steve (Drizin) assigned to the Brendan Dassey case but certainly not the last. There have been 10 years worth of clinical students from Northwestern Law, each of whom has contributed and in very real but different ways depending on the stage of the case. When we had the post-conviction hearing in 2010 in Manitowoc there were students who were involved in preparing witnesses to go on the stand...They worked with us as close colleagues on the case. As we went up through the appellate process, the work changed so the involvement of our students changed with our work. When time came for oral argument before the Seventh Circuit, we relied on our students very intensely.” - Laura Nirider

“The first thing you notice with Brendan’s case is that it’s electronically recorded and that happened in Wisconsin as a result of work that we did at the Center on Wrongful Convictions of Youth in a case that went up to the Wisconsin Supreme Court. We had partners in that case, including the Innocence Project and the Public Defenders Office in Wisconsin, but Brendan’s was the very first homicide interrogation that had been electronically recorded and it helped us immensely in trying to explain, not only to the general public, but also to the people involved in the case, the judges, etc., what was wrong with Brendan’s interrogation and why his confession was unreliable.” - Steven Drizin

About Planet Lex

The Legal Talk Network produces the Planet Lex podcast series. The podcasts typically feature interviews with prominent Northwestern faculty members, discussing the law’s role in changing global, societal and technological landscapes.

Topics of earlier episodes include the evolution of music copyright law; sexual misconduct on campus; election law and gerrymandering; the regulation of public corruption; Chicago’s gun violence epidemic; technological advancements and the law; law enforcement and implicit bias; and integrating the law and STEM-focused multidisciplinary education; online privacy and cybersecurity; and the U.S. Supreme Court. Listen to all 27 episodes