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Brendan Dassey Story - Case Study Sample

3 pages
716 words
Vanderbilt University
Type of paper: 
Case study
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You are representing Brendan Dassey. What constitutional challenges would you make to the 2 statements he made?

A constitutional challenge is a process through which a law or a ruling is challenged in a court of law if it is inconsistent with the constitution. In Brendan Dassey case, there are two possible constitutional challenges against the ruling by the court to jail Brendan Dassey for life without parole (Siegel, 2016).

Admissibility of coerced confession

From the video where Brendan is giving a confession of helping his uncle to commit murder. Brendan looks naive and scared while the male and intelligent police officers pose questions for Brendan to answer. The Fifth Amendment argues that individuals have the right to remain silent and the state cannot compel individuals to make a confession. In the video, the investigators interviewing Brendan Dassey does not warn him of his rights from compelled confession. The investigation goes on without any warning, and Dassey appears extremely nervous while answering the questions which is a significant indication that Dassey was coerced to make the statement which incriminated him and his uncle. The officer took advantage of Dassey low IQ and lack of knowledge of his constitutional rights which violated the Fifth Amendment regulation on the admissibility of the confession in non-custodial settings (Kassin & Wrightsman, 1981).

There is wide evidence from the investigation footage where the investigator uses coercive techniques, fact feeding and physical fatherly assurances which makes the confession involuntary and against the constitution to use it in a court of law. In Chambers v. the State of Florida, the case found out that coercion does not have to be physical, but it can also be mental coercion like in Brendan Dassey case. Secondly, Brendan Dassey at the time he was 16 years old and his IQ of 69 to 72 indicates that Dassey should have had a relative to accompany him to avoid manipulation by the police which could have been possible because of his mental state (Siegel, 2016).

You are representing Stephen Avery on his first assault/rape charge that was overturned. What constitutional challenges would you make to the identification procedures used in that case?

In the first trial of the rape charge, the lineup identification procedure was used to identify Stephen Avery as the perpetrator of the crime of rape by the victim Penny Beerntsen who was allegedly raped. From the "making of the murderer documentary," Penny Beerntsen agrees that the police lineup which was used to identify Stephen Avery was suggestive because in the first photo lineup showed to him, she picked Avery from a random parade of the photographs showed to her. When she was given a chance to do the same on another lineup. Penny Beerntsen chose Stephen Avery for the second time due to the fact that his photograph was the only photograph that was in both lineups. In this case, the line up identification used to identify Stephen Avery was against the constitutional procedures of criminal identification in that it was suggestive in nature which highly could have resulted in bias by coercing the victim to choose the man who was the only person appearing in the first and the second photograph line up (Wise et al., 2009).

Suggestiveness should be avoided in the criminal identification process to make the identification process admissible in a court of law as evidence. During the photo lineup, the appearance of Avery in both the lineups increased Penny Beerntsen attention to Avery which could be the reason why she singled him out as the rape perpetrator only to be exonerated by a DNA test. The suggestive line up should be impermissible in a court of law because of the suggestive lineup identification prone to bias and manipulation just like the case of State v. Maupin, 63 Wn. App. 887 (Div. III, 1992) (LaFave et al., 1999).



Kassin, S. M., & Wrightsman, L. S. (1981). Coerced confessions, judicial instruction, and mock juror verdicts. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 11(6), 489-506.

LaFave, W. R., Israel, J. H., & King, N. J. (1999). Criminal procedure. Eagan, MN: Thomson/West.

Siegel, J. T. (2016). Confessions in an International Age: Re-Examing Admissability through the Lens of Foreign Interrogations. Mich. L. Rev., 115, 277.

Wise, R. A., Fishman, C. S., & Safer, M. A. (2009). How to analyze the accuracy of eyewitness testimony in a criminal case. Conn. L. Rev., 42, 435.


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