'Making a Murderer' attorney speaks at University of St. Thomas

Laura Nirider discusses confessions from kids and the complications they create.

- Laura Nirider took a break from trying to get a new trial for Brendan Dassey, convicted of murder in Manitowoc County, Wisconsin — and featured in the popular Netflix series “Making a Murderer.” Nirider, an expert in false confessions by juveniles, spoke before a packed atrium at the University of St. Thomas School of Law in Minneapolis.

“I believe Brendan Dassey’s confession to rape and murder was false,” Nirider told the sold-out crowd.

Nirider argued that false confessions by juveniles are the result of investigators using coercive interrogation techniques, meant for adults, on juveniles. And she pointed to training that she believes wrongly relies on body language to assess whether a person is telling the truth.

In Dassey’s case, Nirider pointed to the coercive environment: the 16-year-old in a corner in a small room following three other rounds of questioning within 48 hours. And she pointed to investigators pretending to have evidence showing he was at the murder.

Nirider also touched on the most dramatic moment of the interrogation, when investigators bring up the fact — not publicly known at the time — that Teresa Halbach had been shot in the head. Nirider called the detectives revealing the information “contamination” because it made it closed the door on determining whether Dassey knew the information without being told.

As for Dassey, his attorney said he remains in an eight by ten foot prison cell, and that while the case is “fascinating” to many, the story remains “raw” for Dassey, his family, and his friends.

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