- Mobile-focused news publisher NowThis released a new docuseries Wednesday called “Wrongful Convictions” that features Brendan Dassey’s first interview.
- Dassey was convicted at age 17 of helping his uncle sexually assault and murder Teresa Halbach, but his legal team said he was coerced into admitting to a crime he didn’t commit.
- The Netflix series “Making a Murderer” brought the case to national attention in 2015, and now that Dassey has filed for clemency, the NowThis series seeks to draw attention to his case and similar ones.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Brendan Dassey, the subject of the popular 2015 Netflix docuseries “Making a Murderer,” filed for clemency Wednesday after saying he was coerced into making a false confession in 2007 when he was 16.
As part of his effort to convince Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers to grant him mercy, Dassey, who is serving a life sentence, gave his first interview with Jason Flom, host of the podcast “Wrongful Convictions with Jason Flom.”
The series, based on Flom’s podcast, will combine interviews with historical footage related to criminal cases to shed light on wrongful convictions. The pilot got almost 1 million views in 24 hours.
“It’s the first time people are hearing Brendan’s story in his own words,” Flom told Business Insider.
Dassey has intellectual disabilities and was in the public school special education system when he was interrogated for the sexual assault and murder of Halbach, which his legal team says he did not commit.
The NowThis series, “Wrongful Convictions,” includes video footage of Dassey’s interrogation during which Laura Nirider, one of Dassey’s lawyers, tells Flom that Dassey’s interrogator is “dropping him hints.”
No one else was present during the interrogation, according to the docuseries and reports, and after Dassey admits to seeing his uncle shoot Halbach, the interrogator asks why he didn’t say something sooner. Dassey says, “’cause I couldn’t think of it.”
“The whole time he’s guessing, and he had to be told the right answer because he couldn’t guess right,” Nirider said in the NowThis documentary.
Flom said although Dassey is now 29, in many ways he is still childlike. At the end of each episode of his podcast, Flom gives his guests the opportunity to share anything they want. While many use the opportunity to make their case, Dassey talked about his love for Pokémon.
“It gives insight into the fact that he’s still a child,” Flom said to Business Insider. “He’s not dumb, but he was 16 when this happened.”
‘Wrongful Convictions’ challenges NowThis’ audience to take action
Flom and the NowThis team hope the series will drive viewers to push for reform in the legal system, and said they’ve already seen results. Flom said he’s heard positive feedback from sources even within the criminal legal system and that the number of people signing the petition to grant Dassey clemency has gone up.
Even Kim Kardashian West took to Twitter to ask Evers to read a hand-written letter from one of Dassey’s advocates.
Tina Exarhos, the chief content officer at NowThis, said the NowThis audience has shown an interest in activism since the company launched in 2012.
“We’re covering not just the news cycle every day, but the issues that matter most to young people,” Exarhos said. “Criminal and social justice is one of those key issues.”
Flom’s focus on justice system reform made him a match for NowThis’ progressive platform.
“The stories that he’s brought to us and the individuals’ lives that he’s highlighted with the ‘Wrongful Conviction’ podcast so deeply resonate with our audience,” Exarhos said.
The next “Wrongful Conviction” episode, which drops Oct. 9 on platforms including YouTube, Snapchat, Instagram, and Twitter, will feature Jimmy Dennis, Flom told Business Insider.
Dennis spent more than 25 years on death row in Pennsylvania and avoided two scheduled execution dates before being freed in 2017. He went on to start a music career, and Flom said Dennis is upbeat and optimistic despite his time in prison.
“He experienced deprivation and what can only be described as torture that would have broken anyone…and he came out with an amazing attitude,” Flom said. “His case is unique and extraordinary and terrifying. I think people will be shocked by what they hear.”