Center on Wrongful Convictions of Youth
Through outreach, advocacy, education, and litigation, the Center on Wrongful Conviction of Youth (CWCY) seeks to implement policies and practices that will ensure that the evidence used against youth is reliable. More...
January 29, 2016
January 5, 2016
The Netflix ten-part documentary series, Making a Murderer, is receiving rave reviews, with comparisons to such recent classic true crime dramas as The Jinx and Serial. The story centers on the “truth is stranger than fiction” tale of Steven Avery. Center on Wrongful Convictions of Youth attorneys Steve Drizin and Laura Nirider are featured prominently in Episode 10 of the series, which contains courtroom footage of their efforts to win a new trial for Avery’s 16-year-old nephew, Brendan Dassey, who was convicted as Avery’s accomplice. For more information on the Dassey case, and for information on how to make a gift to the CWCY, click here.
Here's our Action Agenda on what viewers can do after watching Making a Murderer.
December 23, 2015
To the viewers of Making A Murderer:
We, at the Center on Wrongful Convictions of Youth, want to wish you a Happy Holiday season.
We have received your many inquiries about Steven Avery and Brendan Dassey. It is important that you understand that we do not represent Steven Avery; we represent Brendan Dassey. As you know from watching the film, the evidence and the legal issues in the two cases are very different and we do not feel it is appropriate for us to respond to questions about Steven’s case.
As for Brendan, we are thinking about ways in which you can be of use to Brendan and other juvenile suspects who are interrogated by the police. Unfortunately, Brendan’s interrogation experience is all too common for juveniles suspected of crimes. In our work, we have seen police officers routinely question youthful suspects as if they are adults. All too often, courts have enabled police by allowing them to not only to use coercive tactics to get suspects to confess but by letting police contaminate confessions through the kind of fact-feeding you saw in the film.
We are trying to change police practices through our scholarship, our advocacy, and our casework. We have also co-written a guide with the International Association of Chiefs of Police entitled “Reducing Risks: An Executive’s Guide to Effective Interviewing and Interrogation of Juveniles”. For more information about our work, please feel free to peruse our website and the website of our parent organization -- the Center on Wrongful Convictions.
Thank you for your support for Brendan. We are sharing with him your well wishes and will spend the holidays thinking more about ways for Making A Murderer watchers to assist Brendan.
Update August 13, 2015 - Dan Andersen is exonerated! Read our press release.
On July 20, 2015, Judge Alfredo Maldonado of Cook County vacated CWCY client Daniel Andersen’s 1982 murder and attempted rape convictions. 19-year-old Dan Andersen was arrested on January 24, 1980, for the murder and attempted rape of 20-year-old Cathy Trunko, a friend from Chicago’s Back of the Yards neighborhood who had been found stabbed to death five days earlier. Police believed a bloody knife found two days after her stabbing in a neighbor’s yard was the murder weapon. Dan was 19, sleep deprived, and very drunk when he confessed to killing Ms. Trunko with this bloody knife after sixteen hours of police interrogation.
At trial, prosecutors said the blood type on the knife matched Ms. Trunko’s and argued that Dan’s confession to killing Ms. Trunko with that very knife proved his guilt. He was convicted by a jury and sentenced to 55 years in prison.
But in 2012, three decades later, DNA testing proved Dan’s innocence. New DNA testing on the knife showed that neither Ms. Trunko’s blood nor Dan’s DNA was on the knife, proving it was not the murder weapon after all. As Judge Maldonado concluded, “the knife was the lynchpin of the State’s case against” Dan; without it, there is absolutely no physical evidence linking Dan to this crime.
What’s more, additional DNA testing of Ms. Trunko’s fingernail clippings revealed two male profiles – both of which excluded Dan Andersen. This fingernail DNA evidence is truly exculpatory evidence because the evidence indicates that Ms. Trunko defended herself against her attacker and that at least one, if not both, of these DNA profiles belong to her assailant(s).
Judge Maldonado called this DNA evidence “extraordinarily compelling” and concluded that a jury would likely return a different result if the case were retried today.
Dan, now 54 years old, served 27.5 years before his release in April of 2007. While Dan has been “free” for over eight years, he has struggled to rebuild his life due to his convictions and status as a registered sex offender. Despite his struggles, Dan has remained positive and focused on clearing his name, which he has finally achieved with this ruling.
Dan has been a client of the CWCY since 2012 and has been represented by Steve Drizin, Josh Tepfer, Laura Nirider, and Megan Crane, along with a persistent and thoughtful group of Northwestern Law students: Weston Sager (JD 2015), Amanda Toy (JD 2015), Leidy Valencia (JD 2015), Lin Zhu (JD 2015), Abby Parr (JD 2014), Elena Garcia (JD 2014), Kathleen Garvey (JD 2013), and Adam Kirshner (JD 2013), and Rebeca Stephens (JD 2013), among others.