IUP’s Six O’Clock Series hosted Nov. 18 the co-director of the Netflix series “Making a Murderer.”
“True Crime, False Convictions, and the Fight for Justice: An Evening with Laura Nirider,” was a free event held in Fisher Auditorium.
Nirider met with members of the Indiana and IUP communities to discuss wrongful convictions, her experience as the attorney for Brendan Dassey and interrogation tactics that can make both the innocent and the guilty to confess to murder.
In 2005, Dassey underwent multiple interrogations without a lawyer or his parents present when he was 16 going through a murder investigation. He confessed to being a co-conspirator to sexual assault and murder. According to Nirider, Dassey’s confession was coerced.
Nirider took on Dassey’s case in 2007 after taking a course on wrongful convictions at Northwestern University. Her professor, Steven Drizin, told Nirider about a case he was working on involving a 16-year-old boy (Dassey) that confessed to murder. Drizin didn’t believe that Dassey was telling the truth in his confession. He believed Dassey was innocent.
After watching the interrogation videos from her professor, Nirider knew something had to be done on Dassey’s behalf.
“My heart broke,” Nirider said. “I saw two seasoned investigators manipulating a frightened 16-year-old boy into admitting to a murder he couldn’t even describe, and I knew that we had to do something about it.”
Some may wonder why an innocent person would admit to a crime they did not commit.
“That’s the big question,” Nirider said. “Why would someone confess to a crime they did not commit? It’s so irrational to think about doing that.”
In the United States, interrogation is taught as a carefully sequenced set of psychological questions that are designed to create emotions that would fuel up a confession. When children and teenagers are being coerced into answering questions, without family or counsel present, they’re likely to give the answer the interrogator is looking for.
Nirider said that Dassey’s case is not unique. There are hundreds of children and teenagers who are wrongfully convicted.
While still fighting for Dassey, Nirider is also working on the heavily publicized case of Rodney Reed, a man who has been on death row since 1998.
Ryan Mealy (freshman, nursing) said she was not familiar with the Netflix show, but wanted go watch it because she enjoyed the presentation so much.
“What stuck out to me the most about Nirider’s presentation was how passionate she is about her job,” Mealy said.
Seasons one and two of “Making a Murderer” are available to watch on Netflix.