Brendan Dassey - an American Teina Pora?

Brendan Dassey at the time of his arrest (Reuters)
Brendan Dassey at the time of his arrest (Reuters)

A teenager is convicted of rape and murder and thrown in prison after giving a false confession.

It's the story of Teina Pora's life, but also that of Brendan Dassey, one of the men at the centre of hit Netflix documentary Making a Murderer - at least according to his ex-lawyer.

Dassey was 17 when he and uncle Steven Avery were convicted of raping and murdering Teresa Halbach.

Avery, who had already spent 18 years behind bars for another rape he was later proven innocent of, denied having anything to do with the 2005 crimes. Dassey, then 16, was his alibi - but the teenager cracked under a controversial police interrogation and confessed.

He later recanted - just like Pora, then 17, who had to wait two decades for his freedom.

Lawyer Jerry Buting compared the two cases while speaking to Paul Henry this morning, saying most people don't realise how common wrongful convictions and false confessions really are.

"Wrongful convictions are not unique to America. You've had them in New Zealand," the defence attorney said.

"You've had the very well-publicised case of Teina Pora, who spent many years incarcerated in New Zealand and wrongfully and falsely confessed. You see that in this documentary with 16-year-old Brendan Dassey, the nephew of Steven Avery as well. I think people are really shocked that they see [this]."

Brendan Dassey - an American Teina Pora?

Teina Pora at the time of his original conviction, which was later quashed (file)

Dassey, like  Pora, has limited intelligence. His uncle had an IQ of 70, and a Newsweek article about the Netflix show said Dassey had "severely below-average intelligence, poor social skills and limited reasoning ability".

Pora suffers from fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, which went undiagnosed at the time of his original conviction.

Buting says while Avery remains the only person in the US charged with a homicide after being wrongfully imprisoned and freed, cases like those of Dassey and Pora are all too common.

"Particularly the interrogation of juveniles and people of limited mental capacity or disabilities that can fall prey to the sorts of psychological course of techniques that police officers use. That unfortunately is very commonplace, particularly in America."

Dassey was interrogated numerous times by police without a lawyer, parent or other adult present, repeatedly accused of carrying out the crimes.

Pora initially denied murdering Susan Burdett, but later went to police hoping to win a $20,000 bounty for information about the case. He too was interrogated without a lawyer present.

Buting has testified with supporting evidence that his client was framed for the later conviction as retaliation for rubbing the establishment up the wrong way, after he won his freedom for the original wrongful conviction.

Brendan Dassey - an American Teina Pora?

Steven Avery (Reuters)

Dassey's appeal is currently pending in federal court, and Buting says a decision could be made any day.

He's no longer part of their defence team. He and fellow defence attorney Dean Strang are currently touring the world, talking about their experiences.

"It's going very well," he says. "We've so far been to about 20 cities in North America, and we're about to head out to Scandinavia, Ireland and the UK in the fall, and Australia and New Zealand at the end, in November."


Sign up to receive news updates

By entering your email address, you agree to our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. Newshub and its affiliates may use your email address to provide updates/news, ads, and offers. To withdraw your consent or learn more about your rights, see the Privacy Policy.