Prof Michele LaVigne Discusses “Under the Hood: Brendan Dassey, Language Impairments, and Judicial Ignorance” on WI Law in Action Podcast

Join us for the latest edition of the Wisconsin Law in Action podcast from the UW Law Library for an engaging conversation with Michele LaVigne, Distinguished Clinical Professor of Law and Director of the Public Defender Project.

LaVigne discusses her article “Under the Hood: Brendan Dassey, Language Impairments, and Judicial Ignorance” which she co-authored with speech-language pathologist Sally Miles. This article examines the case of Brendan Dassey, one of the two subjects of the Netflix documentary “Making A Murderer,” and how his severe communication and language impairment contributed to his confession to the murder.

From the article abstract

With the assistance of a language transcription company we closely analyzed law enforcement communication, and how that communication would affect someone like Brendan. The results were alarming. Almost everything the two officers did in the course of interrogating Brendan violated the most minimal standards for interviewing any juvenile, but especially one with underdeveloped language and communication skills. By the time we finished our review, we were confident that the verbal behavior of law enforcement throughout the interrogations of Brendan, coupled with his poor ability to linguistically cope and his age, made him a prime candidate for unwillingly—and unwittingly—confessing to a crime he did not commit.