Panel of seven judges hears arguments in Dassey case

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CHICAGO (WBAY) -- A panel of seven judges from one of the highest courts in the United States listened to arguments from attorneys and the state of Wisconsin Tuesday in the case of Brendan Dassey.

It's been more than one year since district court magistrate William Duffin overturned Dassey's conviction for the 2005 murder of Teresa Halbach. The case was appealed to the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago, where a three-judge panel heard the case in February. A 2-1 majority agreed with Duffin. The state of Wisconsin asked the full court to hear arguments, also known as en banc, and the court agreed.

Click here to listen to Tuesday's arguments. Opens an mp3 file.

Dassey, along with his uncle, Steven Avery, were both convicted for the murder of Halbach, a freelance photographer who was called to photograph a vehicle on the Avery property in Manitowoc County.

On Tuesday, Attorneys for both sides were given 30 minutes to argue their case. The focus was on Dassey's confession, his age and IQ at the time of the confession, and whether or not it was coerced by investigators. The judges also asked about the argument that Dassey had ineffective counsel after he was arrested.

According to Green Bay Attorney Tricia Nell, who argued in front of the Seventh Circuit Court of appeals, the hearing is very rare.

"En banc hearings are actually disfavored in the court system and are not ordinarily considered or granted," said Nell.

Less than a month after the Wisconsin State Attorney General's Office petitioned the court for the hearing, it was granted.

The state asked for the full court to hear the case after a three-judge panel in June upheld a district magistrate's decision to overturn Dassey's conviction.

That decision was based on the belief his confession was coerced and his rights were violated during an interview with investigators.

According to Nell, while the hearing is specifically about Dassey's case, the law with regard to juvenile interrogations is what will really be at issue.

"I do think the arguments are going to be mostly on the law. They're going to be comparing case law out there because this is about the law," said Nell.

She says both Luke Berg for the State and Laura Nirider for the defense need to be completely prepared with examples.

"I think the people that are arguing these cases need to know every case out there that the Supreme Court, the 13 Circuits and Seventh Circuit have on these cases and how it applies specifically to the facts in this case," said Nell.

A decision does not need to be made right away.

The decision also doesn't need to be unanimous, just a simple majority will rule.

Action 2 News will provide coverage from the Federal Court House in Chicago on Tuesday.

Dassey and Steven Avery were each convicted of 1st Degree Intentional Homicide in 2007 for the murder of Halbach, and sentenced to life in prison. Investigators said the two killed the freelance photographer at the Avery property in Manitowoc County and burned her remains.

The crime’s brutality shocked people in Northeast Wisconsin and beyond. Prior to the murder, Avery had filed a $36 million lawsuit against the county, seeking compensation for the 18 years he served in prison for a rape he did not commit.