Judge vacates murder, rape convictions of Oakland County brothers who spent 25 years in prison

click to enlarge George DeJesus, left, and Melvin DeJesus were convicted of murder and rape. - Michigan Department of Corrections
Michigan Department of Corrections
George DeJesus, left, and Melvin DeJesus were convicted of murder and rape.

A judge on Tuesday vacated the convictions of two Oakland County brothers who were sentenced to life in prison for the rape and murder of a neighbor in 1995.

After an investigation, the Michigan Department of Attorney General's Conviction Integrity Unit (CIU) concluded that George and Melvin DeJesus were wrongfully convicted and asked Oakland County Circuit Judge Martha D. Anderson to vacate the convictions and dismiss all of the charges.

CIU collaborated on the case with the Oakland County Prosecutor’s Office, the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office, the Cooley Law School Innocence Project, and the University of Michigan Innocence Clinic.

“I appreciate the tireless work the unit put in to secure these exonerations for the DeJesus brothers,” Attorney General Dana Nessel said in a statement Tuesday. “This day is another source of great pride for our Conviction Integrity Unit, which was established in 2019 to ensure those convicted of state crimes are in fact guilty. I look forward to our continued collaboration with the Cooley Innocence Project and University of Michigan Innocence Clinic in our collective pursuit of providing justice to those wrongfully imprisoned." ;

The brothers have long argued they were wrongfully convicted. When their neighbor Margaret Midkiff was found raped and murdered in the basement of her family home on July 11, 1995, the brothers became suspects because of their reputation of being in a gang and committing property crimes.

DNA evidence linked Brandon Gohagen to the crime scene, and he eventually confessed to raping Midkiff. But as part of a plea deal, Gohagen claimed the DeJesus brothers bound the victim and beat her to death.

Despite DNA test results and other evidence that suggested the brothers were not involved in the crime, they were convicted and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole in 1997.

An investigation by CIU found that Gohagen acted alone and linked him to 12 other women who were sexually abused.

CIU also corroborated the brothers’ alibi on the night of the murder.

“We are happy that George DeJesus can say he has been fully exonerated after nearly a 25-year struggle to prove his innocence,” Tracey Brame, the director of the Cooley Innocence Project, said. “George has steadfastly maintained that he had nothing to do with this terrible crime. We are grateful to Attorney General Dana Nessel and the Conviction Integrity Unit team for their willingness to listen to the brothers and reinvestigate the case. Today, George and his brother, Melvin, have finally received justice.”

The DeJesus brothers are in the process of being released from prison. They will be eligible for up to a year of reentry housing and two years of supportive services from the Michigan Department of Corrections.

The brothers are the third and fourth people to be exonerated as a result of CIU investigations.

“We are thrilled to learn that our client, Melvin DeJesus, and his brother, George, will be fully exonerated, some 27 years after the true killer framed the brothers for this heinous crime.” Dave Moran, co-director of the University of Michigan Innocence Clinic, said. “We thank the Attorney General’s Conviction Integrity Unit for their thorough reinvestigation of this case, which led them to reach the same conclusion that we did: the brothers are completely innocent. And we thank the Oakland County Prosecutor’s Office for agreeing to this result. We will now focus on helping Melvin DeJesus adjust to his freedom and move on with his life.”

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Steve Neavling

Steve Neavling is an award-winning investigative journalist who operated Motor City Muckraker, an online news site devoted to exposing abuses of power and holding public officials accountable. Neavling also hosted Muckraker Report on 910AM from September 2017 to July 2018. Before launching Motor City Muckraker,...
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