Melvin and George DeJesus filed a $125 million lawsuit after serving 25 years on a wrongful conviction in a 1995 rape and murder case. According to the Detroit Free Press, the two claim that the evidence that put them away was falsified and that evidence that could have proven their innocence was withheld.
The Exonerated Five may be one of the most publicized wrongful conviction cases but it certainly wasn’t the only one. The DeJesus brothers were only 23 and 18 years old when they were sent away on a life sentence. Their neighbor, Margaret Midkiff, was found dead and bound by wires with a pillowcase over her head in her basement, the report says. A man named Brandon Gohagen alleged in a polygraph test the DeJesus brothers forced him to rape the woman and then beat her to death.
In exchange for a compelling testimony, Gohagen avoided a life sentence and the two brothers were convicted. The report later says that Gohagen was convicted in another rape and murder which was eerily similar to Ms. Midkiff’s death.
“He came up with an incredible story. We have these constitutional protections that defendants are entitled to evidence that will exculpate them away from guilt, or that will impeach a star witness. And in this case, they weren’t given the two key pieces of evidence they needed — that’s not a fair fight. You can’t cheat to win,” said attorney Wolf Mueller in the report.
After an investigation through the Michigan Department of Attorney General’s Conviction Integrity Unit, The Cooley Innocence Project and the University of Michigan Innocence Clinic, their convictions were vacated and their charges were dismissed.
Read more about the evidence from the Detroit Free Press:
The prosecution, according to the lawsuit, decided to pursue charges against the DeJesus brothers because of a polygraph report from Romatowski that indicated Gohagen was not being deceitful, and the testimonies of two witnesses for the DeJesus brothers who said they were at a party with them during the crime but couldn’t remember, years later, if the party was on a Friday or Saturday. (The crime occurred on a Saturday).
A second key piece of evidence that Mueller alleges was withheld from the DeJesus brothers’ defense attorneys: notes from the Pontiac Police Department and the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office. The notes lent credibility to the two alibi witnesses who told police during the Midkiff homicide investigation that Melvin and George DeJesus were with them at a party at the time of the crime, according to the lawsuit.
Their suit names Oakland County, former Oakland County Sheriff’s Sgt. William Harvey and former officer Chester Romatowsi as the defendants.