By Jax West
Aimee McGlinchey and I along with our significant others attended the Oral Arguments at the 7th Circuit of Appeals in Chicago on Valentine’s Day, 2017. I am far from a legal expert and don’t pretend to be. I took notes of what I saw and heard and will write that up for you here.
When the date was first announced I contacted Steven Drizin and asked him if I could attend and if I could bring paper and pen to write an article on it. He said I could. The day prior to the court date I called the court to ask anything special I needed to know about entering the courthouse. I was told seats are first come first served and that cellphones can come in but have to be turned off. The courthouse opened at 9am so we planned to get there by 8 am. My boyfriend bought us a spot in a nearby parking garage so that would be one less worry.
Aimee lives in Michigan so she drove down with her husband the night before after work. We got up early on Tuesday to leave my house in a Chicago suburb at 6:30 am. When we got to the courthouse there was a pool of press already stationed on the first floor. We had to go up to the 27th floor. We got there and had to wait in line. I noticed sweaty Ken Kratz 5 people ahead of me in line right away.
I started recognizing all the different press people waiting as well. Then I saw Brendan’s attorney Laura Nirider and Steven Drizin walk past. They went into a private room. I talked with the kid in front of me to find out his thoughts on the case. Turns out he was a law student who nothing of the case. Had never seen ‘Making a Murderer’. Just saw the press and decided to come check it out. Drizin came out of the room and came over to me and pointed out my Justice for Brendan Dassey hoodie I was wearing and he said he knows I think it’s a good thing but asked if I would take it off. I shook his hand and introduced myself as all my communication with him has been in messages or on the phone. He said he knows who I am. He thanked me and then he and Nirider walked away. I wished Nirider good luck and she thanked me. I then saw Laura Ricciardi one of the documentarians from MaM in line.
I don’t know if I am just paranoid or what but Kratz kept seeming to be staring at Aimee and I. I am not kidding when I say he was sweating. A lot. All I kept saying was sweaty, sweat, sweat. I just can’t stop thinking that when I look at that pig.
The courtroom opened and we went in. We chose to sit on the side of the defense in the back row. Kratz sat on the guilty side right behind the Halbach family. I saw both of Teresa’s brothers, her mom and I don’t know what you call him, her uncle or her stepdad. There were maybe 125 people total in the courtroom. It wasn’t that big. There weren’t any other supporters there other than us. Everyone else seemed to be law students or people who just wanted to come watch a show.
We sat there for a half hour. Kratz’s young girlfriend kept rubbing his back & seemed to be glaring our way. That may be my paranoia again. It was just very odd. She just kept looking at us.
The 3 judges came in at 9:30am. Wisconsin Deputy Solicitor Peter Berg got to speak first. He started reading his prepared speech about Brendan CHOOSING to confess and that the interrogators were just encouraging him to tell the truth and that they didn’t apply any pressure and then U.S. Appellate Court Judge Ilana Rovner interrupted him. Judge Rovner asked about Brendan’s low IQ and said he was highly suggestible. Berg said nothing was promised to Brendan as a benefit for his cooperation. Berg claimed they said that they CAN’T make any promises. Judge Rovner said Brendan was told the truth would set him free. Berg said he doesn’t think Brendan thought that meant he would go free. He said Brendan volunteered the details. Then Berg started spouting off a lot of numbers. The microphones were not on, he wasn’t facing me and I am deaf in one ear. Oh, and me and numbers are not friends. So I got lost in Berg saying something about Brendan resisted their offers 35 times. Denied that he shot her or that there was a fire going. When Brendan was asked about her hair he said he didn’t know.
Judge Rovner said that the interrogator said that he is a father and he wished he could help Brendan. He said I am not a cop right now. It was a blatant lie. Berg said at that time the interrogators only thought Brendan was a witness. Judge Rovner said that they showed frustration when Brendan didn’t say what they wanted. Berg said that the interrogators main concern was Brendan telling the truth [Be honest]. They didn’t want him to make things up. [Be honest] Judge Rovner said Brendan was particularly suggestible. She brought up the line of questioning. Who shot her in the head? Judge Rovner said that plants information to taint the confession. Berg said it is an appropriate interview technique. Judge Rovner said Brendan said they cut her hair and other various things. Berg said they didn’t know if Teresa Halbach was shot in the bedroom or in the garage until Brendan told them.
Judge Ann Claire Williams asked if Brendan’s age was considered. Berg said something about the ineffective assistance of counsel and that would be used against Steven. I kind of got lost in this part as I couldn’t hear. They kept citing the Sullivan case. Now I told you I do not know the law at all. So I see in Nirider’s brief it is Cuyler v. Sullivan. When I look it up I find:
Brief Fact Summary. Respondent challenges his murder conviction on the grounds that his counsel’s representation of his co-defendants presented an unacceptable conflict of interests that denied him effective assistance of counsel.
Synopsis of Rule of Law. Defendants alleging a conflict of interest in cases in which multiple defendants are being represented by the same attorney in the same matter must demonstrate an “actual conflict” that “adversely affected” the outcome.
Judge David Hamilton asked if there was any physical evidence that a rape or a wound to Teresa Halbach’s throat occurred. Berg said no because the body was burned. Judge Hamilton said so they only have Brendan’s confession. Berg said there weren’t any promises of leniency. Any promises were vague. Judge Rovner said the police were allowed to induce a confession to get a confesstion.
Judge Rovner asked why was the May 13th interview not introduced to trial. Was it because of a ruling? Berg said he wasn’t sure. [I am sure Kratz was dying to raise his hand like a Sweathog and proclaim he knows the answer] Judge Rovner said it is unreliable. Berg said Brendan chose to make that call to the police. Judge Rovner said they told Brendan that he doesn’t want to be lying to his Mom.
I really thought Judge Rovner was awesome. She just kept reading from the [coerced] confession. Berg kept saying it was voluntary. When put in context to what the Judge is reading. In my opinion Berg just looked ridiculous.
Berg was done at 9:52 am. Laura Nirider went to the podium. She began reading her prepared speech. She said the interrogators told Brendan that they know he is scared he is going to be arrested but they think he will be alright. They said they already know what happened. Judge Hamilton interrupts Nirider like Judge Rovner did to Berg. He asked if there’s another case where the child thought they were going back to school. Nirider said they told Brendan that it is ok because they already know.
Judge Williams brought up that Sullivan case again. She asked if the police knew about Brendan’s intellect. Nirider said they knew he had an IQ of 73. Brendan was in a special ed support system. She said they knew his age. Nirider said it isn’t relevant if they knew his IQ. It was their suggestions. They repeated it like a drum beat.
Judge Hamilton said Brendan did hear his Miranda Rights and was told they can’t make any promises. Nirider said that Len Kachinsky did not turn over evidence of the video that Michael O’Kelly did so the Defense didn’t know the pressures they put on him on May 12th. They don’t just say that everything is going to be ok. They say they know he’s scared of arrest but he’s ok. Nirider said that’s enough for a 16-year-old developmentally challenged boy to think he will be going back to school.
Judge Hamilton asked who was the source about him cutting Teresa’s throar after she was raped? He said that it was either known from memory or it was made up. He said it was contradictory. It comes out slowly but was Brendan’s free will. Nirider said they let him embellish til he got to their plot point. They gave Brendan false promises of leniency. They gave him each step and then allowed him to tell their story. They said Teresa Halbach was shackled to a wooden headboard yet there were no marks on it. Brendan was just trying to guess how Teresa was killed. There’s not a trace of forensic evidence of Teresa Halbach or Brendan being in that trailer.
Judge Rovner brought up the closing arguments in Brendan’s case when Kratz said that an innocent person would not confess but they know many who have. Nirider said that false confessions happen all the time. She cited the Central Park 5. Nirider said they now use Brendan’s interrogation to teach what NOT to do. Was there any physical evidence linking Brendan to a murder? No. They led him to say that the shooting happened in the garage because of the bullet they found. When Brendan was first asked where she was shot he said by the fire. Nirider said the investigators provided Brendan the answers they wanted him to say like that Teresa’s electronics were in the burning barrel. Nirider was done speaking at 10:14 am.
Berg got a chance to speak one more time. He again says that nothing said to Brendan was a promise. Berg claimed Brendan got specific warnings. Berg said these were Brendan’s memories of Teresa Halbach. None of this was suggested. Brendan is the one who said he heard Teresa screaming and saw her chained to the bed. He saw her crying. That there was an awful smell when her body was burning. Berg said Brendan said all that voluntarily. He was done speaking at 10:18am.
Judge Rovner said that both sides were very well briefed and it will be taken under advisement. That was the end of the hearing. What is my take away from this? I always stay positive in both Brendan and Steven’s cases. My heart and my head both say that this went very well for Brendan. Nirider is so impressive. I have complete faith in her. The judges can take 6-9 months before they rule so we are back to waiting. As soon as I hear of a decision it will be posted immediately. Until then, please think happy thoughts for Brendan and his Mom and Dad. That boy needs to go home to his parents and get to just chill out playing video games for hours.
#FreeBrendan #MakingAMurderer #WeAllLiveOnAveryRoad #NeverGiveUp