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tv   Nightline  ABC  March 9, 2016 12:37am-1:05am EST

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[ cheers and applause ] this is "nightline." >> tonight, cold-blooded killer or confused teen? made famous by the netflix series "making a murderer," this confession helped put 16-year-old brendan dassey behind bars for life. his lawyers now saying it was coerced. >> we're on our way to meet -- >> tonight we investigate why someone could confess to a crime they didn't commit. plus, wings and waves. we're taking you on an airborne mission into enemy territory. >> it is an intense rush, and at nighttime your eyes can play all sorts of tricks on you in the dark. and out at sea aboard a massive aircraft carrier, home to 5,000 armed sailors and hundreds of heavy weapons. it's a rare journey to the front line in the fight against isis. and the world of melania. before her glamorous life with the donald, there was this
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who was in girl? >> a look back at the small town beginnings of a beautiful girl with huge ambition. but first, the "nightline" 5. why do we do it? why do we spend every waking moment, thinking about people? why are we so committed to keeping you connected? why combine performance with a conscience? why innovate for a future without accidents? why do any of it? why do all of it?
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one teenager admits to taking part in a gruesome murder, landing him in jail for the rest of his life. now his lawyers are saying that his confession was coerced. it's the lynchpin in brendan dassey's controversial case. tonight my "nightline" co-anchor dan harris investigates. >> come on, brendan, be honest. you can do it. just tell us the truth. >> i grabbed her arm, put it on the side, and tied her up. >> reporter: are we looking at a killer reluctantly unspoolg the details of his crime? >> then we shot her. >> why don't you draw what the blood stains looked like? >> reporter: or are we looking at a confused intellectually challenged teenager being manipulated into falsely confessing? the case of brendan dassey has leapt into the national consciousness as a result of the netflix documentary series "making a murderer." >> they got to my head. >> reporter: this controversial confession tape was the centerpiece of dassey's trial. he's been in prison now for nearly ten years, convicted of
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halback. but he and his family have maintained his innocence. >> they interrogated him and made him say what they wanted to hear. >> reporter: dassey now has a new legal team and they've filed a new federal appeal based in large measure on the argument that dassey's confession was coerced. so we went out to explore these questions. if dassey didn't commit the crime, why would he confess? and if this videotape really shows dassey falsely confessing, what made the jury convict? first stop -- >> we're going to laura's office. >> reporter: laura nirider, one of dassey's lead attorneys and fiercest defenders. >> come on, buddy. let's get this out. okay? >> what you have here are police officers who are using psychological interrogation tactics that were designed for seasoned adult criminals on a 16-year-old with intellectual limitations. >> reporter: the interrogators aren't banging the table. they're not threatening him.
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classic model of coercive interrogations? >> absolutely it does. >> reporter: at the time of his arrest brendan dassey was a high school sophomore in manitowoc county, wisconsin. he had a low i.q. and was enrolled in several special ed classes. he lived on the family's salvage yard right next to his uncle steven. >> i'm free. >> reporter: who'd been released from prison after serving 18 years for a rape he didn't commit. >> i'm just glad you're home, honey. >> reporter: but then avery was arrested and charged with the murder of teresa halbach. >> dwroent you have have a seat, brend snn. >> reporter: several months later brendan was brought in for questioning. >> cut her. >> cut her where? >> on her throat. >> it appeared hard to argue that it was coerced. >> reporter: len kachinsky was one of dassey's original court appointed attorneys. he says when he watched the confession tape he became convinced there was no way a jury would believe dassey was innocent. kachinsky did try to get dassey's confession thrown out.
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suppress these statements is denied. >> what are your thoughts after today? >> well, we're disappointed in in -- start over. >> reporter: so kachinsky deal. he even set up another interview with his client and the police. yeah? yes or no? >> yeah. >> reporter: an interview kachinsky actually skipped because he says he had army reserve duty. >> how on earth could you opt out of that? >> with 20-20 hindsight, yeah, it was a mistake. >> reporter: for his failure to attend that meeting -- >> why don't you sign that? >> reporter: the judge removed kachinsky from dassey's case. >> do you have a clear conscience? >> yes, i do. i did what i thought was in dassey's best interests. i don't think those mistakes had any impact at all on the verdict in dassey's case. >> reporter: several months later dassey went to trial with different attorneys, and his confession dominated the proceedings.
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case will decide whether that statement ought to be believed. >> when you watch the videos carefully, they'll be exposed for what they are. and i think they're just garbage. >> reporter: dassey himself took the stand. >> you made it up. >> yeah. >> reporter: sticking to his story even under tough cross-examination. >> and you lied to the police. >> yes. >> are you lying -- you're lying today? >> no. >> reporter: the prosecutor at dassey's trial made this confident assertion. >> people who are innocent don't confess. the defendant confessed because he was guilty. because he did it. >> reporter: but the fact is innocent people do confess. richard ofshe is one of the leading defense experts on interrogation tactics. he worked on the infamous case of the central park five. >> i grabbed her arm. grabbed one arm and her legs and stuff. >> reporter: five teenagers who confessed in gruesome detail to attacking and raping a 28-year-old woman in the spring of 1989. >> he would smack her and say shut up. kept smacking. >> reporter: but these
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>> they came to believe that they would only be able to minimize their punishment if they cooperated with the police. >> reporter: turns out 1 out of 4 people wrongfully convicted and later exonerated by dna evidence have made a false confession or incriminating statement. >> so when you look at brendan dassey's confession, what do you see in. >> i see something that almost makes one ashamed to be an american. it's that bad. they get him to say anything that they want him to say. >> i don't feel if i was faced by cops accusing me of a crime i did not commit that i would confess to it. >> what would you do? >> i would say give me a lawyer. >> and that's the difference. those are the people i never see. the ones i see tend to think i've got to get myself out of this. and probably your income is a bit higher than the average person. >> reporter: if she can get her client a new trial, laura
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she says the interrogators railroaded dassey. >> we just need to see the whole story from you. >> they reduce him over time to a place where he doesn't think that he can convince these officers of his innocence. and when he's at that position of hopelessness, then the officers offer him a way out. >> your mom said you'd be honest with us. >> she's behind you 100% no matter what happens here. >> that's what she said. because she thinks you know more too. >> we're in your corner. >> and what you see is brendan begin to believe the officers and think, okay, i have to say these things that they want me to say. >> reporter: even when dass wree breaks down and confesses any nirider says by her analysis he offers no information that was not already widely reported in the media. >> the 25-year-old photographer disappeared last halloween. >> was last seen taking pictures at the avery salvage yard. >> reporter: or directly fed to him by investigators. >> all right. i'm just going to come out and ask you. who shot her in the head? >> he did.
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>> because i couldn't think of it. >> any fair reading of that sequence is that brendan is guessing in an attempt to placate his interrogators. >> reporter: we reached out to the detectives in this video for comment, but our efforts were not successful. even now that i understand that false confessions are a real problem in our justice system, when it comes to the case of brendan dassey there are still so many open questions. if he didn't do it, is it just a total coincidence that he was at a bonfire that night with his uncle and in that bonfire they found the remains of a murder victim? >> look, what happened that night is exactly what brendan has said all along. the family had bonfires all the time to burn their garbage. same thing with cleaning up the garage with his uncle. again, this was an auto salvage yard. people were constantly tinkering around with cars and having to clean up after the fact. >> reporter: even though two lower courts have already denied his appeal, brendan dassey sits in prison tonight holding out hope that a federal judge will answer his prayers. >> i wish i could have a family someday. >> reporter: toward the end of
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heard reading a letter with an emotional plea. >> i am innocent of the rape and murder of teresa halbach. please help me if you can. sincerely, brendan dassey. >> so do you think brendan dassey's confession was coerced? head to the "nightline" facebook page to weigh in. and next -- we're with the men attacking isis from the air. on board an aircraft carrier with massive firepower. but first, your voice, your vote. the results of couldn't'stonight's heated primary contests. republican donald trump once again trouncing his rivals. projected to win in michigan. although a strong showing from senator ted cruz and governor john kasich in that state. trump is also projected to win in mississippi. moving west keeping the pressure on trump. cruz projecting a win in idaho. and on the democratic side a
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abc projects hillary clinton will win handily in mississippi but an upset in michigan. abc now projecting bernie sanders will win by a narrow margin in the rust belt state. of course trump, the night's biggest winner, sizing up his victories with his trademark bravado. >> the bottom line is we have something going that's so good. we should grab each other and we should unify the party. and nobody's going to beat us. okay? man. woman. or where you're from. city. country. we're just everyday people fighting high blood sugar. i am everyday people, yea, yea. farxiga may help in that fight every day. along with diet and exercise, farxiga helps lower blood sugar in adults with type 2 diabetes. one pill a day helps lower your a1c. and, although it's not a weight-loss or blood-pressure drug, farxiga may help you lose weight and may even lower systolic blood pressure when used with metformin. do not take if allergic to farxiga or its ingredients.
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what do you think it takes to land a fighter jet on a moving ship in the middle of nowhere in the middle of the night? we're with the country's top fighter pilots risking their lives in the campaign to wipe out isis. abc's chief global affairs correspondent martha raddatz gives us a rare look aboard the massive mother ship that these aces call home. >> do you have any rituals before you go out in.
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>> reporter: lieutenant commander john hilts, call sign johnny kittens, is calm on the surface, but he is about to be hurtled off an aircraft carrier to attack isis. lieutenant charles wickware, call sign wingnut, has his camera rolling as he embarks on this risky mission, flying in the dead of night over enemy territory, crossing iraq into syria through a gathering storm. >> whatever you can do to avoid some of the weather. >> reporter: we joined the mission hours before on the "uss harry s. truman," deployed to the persian gulf, the truman is home to more than 5,000 sailors and a jaw-dropping amount of military might. this is what they call the bomb farm. hundreds of precision guided weapons, millions and millions of dollars' worth of ordnance ready to be loaded onto the aircraft. landing on a moving target the
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delicate maneuver. but to the pilots it's routine. >> let's be brilliant at the basics tonight. this is a pretty standard mission for us. we should be able to execute it flawlessly. >> let me start with you, lieutenant commander, because you outrank him, you know, so we should do that. >> i'm taller too. >> not by much and not by much. >> reporter: the duo jokes, but they are some of the navy's best pilots. wickware has been in the navy 11 years. growing up in hawaii, he started 14. john hilts played basketball for notre dame before joining the navy, where he would be chosen for the elite blue angels demonstration team. it takes a crew of 5,000 to get hilts and wickware in the air on a ship 20 stories high with miles of passageways. life below the deck is bustling. the ship's barber shop doles out 20,000 haircuts and trims per
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and the kitchen dishes up 18,000 meals to the hungry crew each day. they worship on board as well. >> everything from voodoo to roman catholic services, an anglican services, anything you can imagine we have. >> wait a minute. voodoo? >> that's true. >> reporter: these creature comforts are true on a ship that launches or lands an aircraft every 60 to 90 seconds when flight operations are under way. it is the rainbow warriors who make it happen, the maintainers in green, white launch and recovery, and the red bombs. >> a lot of ordnance has been dropped. >> a lot more than my last three cruises combined. >> reporter: all that teamwork leads to this. lieutenant commander hilts leads a detailed mission brief where we were allowed to hear exactly what the night would hold. >> we're going after that oil infrastructure in syria. there will also be some
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tanking and then possibly into the execution. we've got a 30-minute window to execute. >> reporter: the pilots head for their jets just as the sun goes down. >> most naval aviators will say i do this job for free during the day but you have to pay me to do it at night. >> you've been in afghanistan and iraq before. is it different going after this kind of enemy? >> i think it is. you don't have as many eyes on the ground to develop those targets. >> have a safe flight. >> reporter: the mission is a go. lieutenant wickware gives a sign to the air traffic controllers, and he's off. catapulted from 0 to 160 miles an hour in seconds. >> that's one element where you're almost completely out of control. those few seconds as it accelerates you down that catapult stroke. if it's night sometimes you have no stars no, horizon, you're launched right into darkness. >> reporter: that target an oil pipeline in a remote area of eastern syria.
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financial resources. but before they hit their target the jets must refuel, mid-air. connecting with a tanker to gas up. >> you are left side joining. >> reporter: the pilots guiding their probe into the tanker's basket. >> you're over hostile territory running out of gas. so you need to get that gas. and if you don't, then we can't complete our mission. >> whatever you can do to avoid some of the weather would be great. >> reporter: an intense storm develops. lightning strikes illuminate wickware's nightvision. sight. >> three, two, one. tickle. >> reporter: the two pilots hit the target with a quick, intense flare. but the mission is not over yet. >> we still have to come back and land on a moving aircraft carrier deck at night. really nobody else around the world operates at night the way america's navy does. >> expect the approach.
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at nighttime your eyes can play all sorts of tricks on you in the dark. >> final bearings. >> while you're doing it you are. adrenaline. >> reporter: we met up with the pilots seconds after landing safely on deck again. >> it was not exactly routine. we had to climb above a thunderstorm and then to employ we had to drop down below it. but we got the results we wanted. >> reporter: but as the military moves closer to trying to help take back major cities under isis control, the danger will only increase. >> every time we take the sky there's risks that are inherently placed on us throughout the world. >> reporter: for "nightline" i'm martha raddatz on the ""uss truman." up next, she's the glamorous wife of republican front-runner donald trump.
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melania's world in slovenia. shopping for an suv? well, this is the time. and your ford dealer is the place, to get 0% financing for 60 months on a ford suv. that's right. just announced. ford explorer...edge...escape... and expedition... are available with 0% financing for 60 months. ford suvs. designed to help you be unstoppable. no wonder ford is america's best selling brand. but hurry, 0% financing for 60 months on ford suvs is a limited time offer. see your ford dealer today. moderate to severe crohn's disease is tough, but i've managed. except that managing my symptoms was all i was doing. and when i finally told my doctor, he said humira is for adults like me who have tried other medications but still experience the symptoms of moderate to severe crohn's disease. and that in clinical studies, the majority of patients on humira saw significant symptom relief. and many achieved remission. humira can lower your ability to fight infections, including tuberculosis.
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from a small town in slovenia to ritzy fifth avenue, melania trump's next residence may even be the white house. so did the man who says he's her
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on the banks of the sava river, sevnica, slovenia, a modest factory town that boasts one very famous export. melania trump. >> two words. grace kelly. she was like an angel. >> reporter: before the paparazzi and that very public marriage, she was melania knauss and this was her home. >> we met for the first time. >> reporter: before the donald there was the jure, who says he's melania's ex-boyfriend. >> she was never a typical slovenian girl. very, very classy. >> reporter: from sevnica to manhattan to perhaps next the white house. a lofty end to quite the fairy tale. you can watch much more of abc's digital shorts like this one by downloading the abc news app. thanks for watching tonight. tune in to "gma" for a full wrap-up of election results in the morning. and as always, we're online 24/7


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