A federal judge told Wisconsin prison officials on Wednesday that they must release an inmate featured in the Netflix series "Making a Murderer" by Friday evening.
It's unclear if Brendan Dassey will finally walk free, however, because state attorneys subsequently rushed to prepare an emergency filing with the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago seeking to block his release.
Dassey, 27, has been serving a life sentence since he was convicted in 2007 of helping his uncle, Steven Avery, rape, kill and mutilate photographer Teresa Halbach at the Avery family salvage yard in Manitowoc County in 2005.
U.S. Magistrate Judge William Duffin overturned Dassey's conviction in August, ruling investigators tricked the then-16-year-old into confessing. Duffin ordered Dassey released from prison then, but said he would stay that request if state attorneys appealed. The state Department of Justice asked the 7th Circuit to restore Dassey's conviction, a request that's pending.
But Dassey's attorneys asked Duffin in September to release Dassey from prison while that appeal is weighed. Duffin granted the request Monday, rejecting the state's arguments that Dassey presents a threat to public safety. The state asked Duffin on Tuesday to reconsider but he refused. In Wednesday's order, Duffin said the state hasn't made any new arguments and said that Dassey must be released by 8 p.m. Friday.
The state Justice Department planned to file an emergency motion with the federal appeals court in Chicago, spokesman Johnny Koremenos said.
Dassey's attorney, Steven Drizin, didn't immediately return a voicemail message Wednesday morning. Dassey was convicted of first-degree intentional homicide, second-degree sexual assault and mutilating a corpse in connection with Halbach's death.
Court documents have described him as a slow learner who had poor grades and had trouble understanding language. Duffin ruled in August that investigators took advantage of Dassey's cognitive problems and promised him leniency in exchange for his confession. State attorneys have countered no specific promises were made.
Avery was convicted in a separate trial and sentenced to life in prison. He's pursuing his own appeal.
The Nexflix series aired last year, spawning widespread conjecture about whether police framed the men because Avery had filed a lawsuit seeking damages for being wrongly imprisoned for a sexual assault he didn't commit.
Authorities who worked on the cases said the series was biased but it sparked demands from the public to free both men.