Los Angeles – A judge in Michigan has overturned the convictions of two Latino brothers who spent 25 years in prison sentenced to life for the rape and murder of a woman in 1995, and managed to regain their freedom, lawyers from the Innocence Project reported today. Western Michigan University.
Melvin and George DeJesús had been convicted of the murder and rape of Margaret Midkiff on July 11, 1995, despite the fact that witnesses testified that the brothers were in another place when the crime occurred in the city of Pontiac, Michigan. There was also no DNA evidence linking them to the murder scene.
Oakland County Circuit Court Judge Martha Anderson vacated the sentences Tuesday at the request of the director of the Michigan Attorney General’s Sentencing Integrity Unit (CIU), Robyn Frankel, who also requested the dismissal. of all charges against the brothers.RELATED
“I wish to apologize for the actions taken against you 25 years ago. Twenty-five years have been taken from your life that cannot be replaced. Hopefully, they will find some solace in the fact that they will be able to reunite with their family and start living a normal life outside the prison walls. I wish you the best,” Anderson told the defendants.
The brothers, who had been friends with Midkiff and his family, were convicted solely on the testimony of convicted rapist Brandon Gohagen, 50, whose DNA was found at the crime scene.
Midkiff was found in the basement of her home with a pillowcase over her head. The autopsy showed that she had been kicked to death.
Gohagen claimed that the DeJesus brothers had forced him to rape Midkiff, who was 43 when she died, but that he did not murder her. Ultimately, he pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and first-degree criminal sexual conduct in exchange for her testimony against the brothers.
A jury believed Gohagen’s testimony, and in December 1997 the brothers were sentenced to life in prison for first-degree murder.
The Western Michigan University Cooley School of Law Innocence Project (WMU-Cooley) and the Michigan Innocence Clinic, which represented the brothers, asked the CIU to reinvestigate the cases.
After accepting the request, the CIU interviewed numerous witnesses and reviewed decades of documents that corroborated the brothers’ alibis for the night of the murder.
New evidence shows Gohagen was solely responsible for Midkiff’s murder, along with 12 other sexual assaults in the city of Pontiac since the 1990s.
During Tuesday’s hearing, Frankel offered the two Latinos the “deepest apologies for all the years that have been taken from them.”
In response, George DeJesus, 44, said he was “grateful that the truth has finally come out.”
“I realize that justice for us opens up old wounds for the Midkiff family. I just hope that one day our families can heal and we can have a relationship,” she added.
“I have no animosity. I have known them since I was 8 years old. You are like my second family,” said Melvin DeJesús, 48, speaking to the Midkiff family.
Tracey Brame, director of the WMU-Cooley Innocence Project, said: “We are happy that George can say he has been fully exonerated after a nearly 25-year fight to prove his innocence.”
“George and his brother Melvin finally received justice,” he concluded.