One psychologist Tuesday portrayed a 17-year-old accused of rape and murder as a boy with low intelligence, poor memory, few friends and other traits that made him susceptible to police suggestions and to uttering a false confession.
But another psychologist told a jury that he never heard of the so-called test of suggestibility and he had serious questions whether it measured anything valuable.
The dueling experts came as testimony in the murder trial of Brendan Dassey ended. Closing arguments were set for today.
Dassey and his uncle, Steven Avery, were charged with killing photographer Teresa Halbach, 25, and burning her body on Oct. 31, 2005, near the family's auto salvage lot in rural Manitowoc County. Avery, 44, was convicted last month and will be sentenced to mandatory life in prison in June.
Dassey wasn't charged in Halbach's killing until he made a three-hour videotaped confession to police on March 1, 2006. Tuesday was the seventh day of testimony in his trial.
Dassey, a high school sophomore with a fourth-grade reading level, has a history of learning problems, Robert Gordon, a defense psychologist, told the Dane County jury hearing the case Tuesday.
"It is my opinion that he is highly suggestible when being interrogated and responding to leading questions and mild pressure, if in fact that is present," Gordon testified. "Individuals who are suggestible certainly have a greater chance of providing a confession, period. It could either be true or false."
Gordon bolstered what Dassey's attorneys have claimed -- Dassey was a teen of low intelligence who had learning problems in school, and detectives, using promises, lies, suggestions and leading questions, exploited the boy's vulnerability to being influenced.
But Gordon also undercut some of the boy's testimony Monday that a book may have inspired the false story that Dassey said he told police about his role in the killing. Gordon said it was unlikely Dassey would remember details of a complicated novel given his poor memory.
The prosecution's psychologist, James Armentrout, said he first learned of a suggestibility test two weeks ago when contacted by special prosecutor Ken Kratz.
"I have serious questions whether this scale measures suggestibility at all," Armentrout testified Tuesday. "What does it tell us? My opinion is, not very much. ... It may well be a memory test or concentration test or something else. I would not have reached the conclusion (Gordon) reached."
In his confession, Dassey told two detectives that he raped Halbach at Avery's suggestion, cut her throat at Avery's suggestion, helped Avery burn the body and he was "really sad" about what he did.
On the witness stand Monday, Dassey recanted that confession, telling the jury he made it up, didn't know why and may have gotten the details from a book he read three or four years ago.
Gordon said he found Dassey sad, polite and passive. He scored 83 on an IQ test, meaning he has intellectual shortcomings, the psychologist said.