It is not likely that Brendan Dassey, nephew of Making a Murderer’s Steven Avery, will get a new trial, a Missouri professor says.
Missouri law professor Peter Joy wrote on his school’s website that despite Dassey’s lawyer’s “outrageous conduct,” it is nearly impossible to prove that the standard of legal counsel was ineffective.
Netflix documentary Making a Murderer follows the conviction of Avery, who spent 18 years in prison for a sexual assault charge. In 2003, with new DNA evidence confirming that the crime was committed by someone else, Avery was exonerated. Two years later, he was arrested for the murder of photographer Teresa Halbach. Soon thereafter, Dassey was implicated as accomplice to the crime.
In the documentary, Dassey’s former attorney Len Kachinsky can be seen supporting the prosecution’s argument, urging Dassey into a confession claiming he’s guilty. Moreover, Dassey’s private investigator also coached Dassey to confess to the crime, OnlineLaw.wustl.edu notes. A meeting involving the police and Dassey, in the absence of his lawyer, was arranged. Consequently, Dassey was convicted of first-degree intentional homicide and given a life imprisonment sentence.
Joy, in saying that it is impossible to prove the inefficiency of the legal counsel, cited the Strickland Standard. “In establishing the Strickland standard, the Court created conditions in which unequal assistance of counsel can thrive with little or no recourse for those adversely affected,” Joy wrote.
The Strickland Standard, which refers to the Sixth Amendment right to a defense attorney, comes from the 1984 Strickland v. Washington case, where the defendant pleaded guilty to murder. Sentenced to death, he argued that his counsel had been ineffective in providing evidence that could have exonerated him.
“There is now, and has always been, a double standard when it comes to the criminal justice system in the United States,” Joy writes in his paper, Unequal Assistance of Counsel. “The system is stacked against you if you are a person of color or are poor… . The potential counterweight to such a system, a lawyer by one’s side, is unequal as well. In reality, the right to counsel is a right to the unequal assistance of counsel in the United States.”
Referring to Dassey’s case, Joy wrote, “As a result of the Strickland standard, only the most outrageous conduct by defense counsel leads to a new trial.”