Brendan Dassey was a 16-year-old special education student when he was charged with murder. Experts who have studied his confession question the impact of his disability on his ability to understand and participate in the process. Nationally, people with intellectual disabilities make up just 1.5 percent of the general population, but comprise up to 10 percent of the prison population.
On October 21 The Arc Wisconsin hosted an on-line conversation with two UW-Madison researchers who are experts in studying the prevalence of language impairments and deficits among adults and juveniles who come through the legal system and what this means for the equality of justice.
Michelle LaVigne, a UW-Madison law professor, and Sally Miles, a 30-year veteran speech language pathologist both analyzed Brendan’s multiple interrogations as well as his educational records.
The October 21 webinar discussed their conclusions, their detailed study of the Dassey interrogation and their recommendations for how the legal system must change their treatment of people with disabilities in order ensure equal justice. You can access the materials from their presentation below.
- Webinar slides.
- Webinar recording.
- Link to download the article here.
- Read the clemency petition filed on October 2, 2019.
- Letter Brendan Dassey wrote to Governor Evers about the clemency petition.
- The Arc’s letter of support.
Michele LaVigne, Clinical Professor of Law, University of Wisconsin Law School.
BA – Syracuse University; JD George Washington University. Michele was a public defender for 10 years before coming to the law school. At the law school her specialty is criminal law and criminal defense. Her research and outreach has centered on the prevalence of language impairments and deficits among adults and juveniles who come through the legal system and what this means for the quality of justice.
Sally Miles, PhD Speech Language Pathologist
Sally got her MA in Speech Pathology at the University of Connecticut, and PhD from the Communication Disorders Dept at UW-Madison; she has conducted research on children’s language disorders, taught courses in language development and disorders; she has worked with children with speech & language disorders for over 30 years; she has been in private practice in Madison for the last 12 years and recently became interested in the forensic dimension of language disorders