Two brothers from Pontiac, Michigan, are free men after spending 25 years in state prisons for a murder they did not commit. George DeJesus, 44, and Melvin DeJesus, 48 were found guilty in 1997 of the murder of family friend Margaret Midkiff after a jury believed testimony from the man now believed to be the real killer, the Detroit News reports. Midkiff was raped and murdered in her Pontiac home in 1995. After DNA evidence linked Brandon Gohagen, now 50, to the crime, he claimed the DeJesus brothers had murdered the woman after forcing him to rape her.
Gohagen was convicted of sexual assault and second-degree murder but received a lesser sentence in exchange for his testimony against the brothers, who were found guilty of first-degree murder despite the facts that they had alibis and that there was no DNA evidence linking them to the crime. At a hearing Tuesday, Robyn Frankel of the Michigan Attorney General's Conviction Integrity Unit said new evidence—including DNA from the 1994 rape and murder of Pontiac woman Rosalia Brantley shows Gohagen committed the crime alone. Gohagen was found guilty of Brantley's murder in 2017, the year after the DNA evidence surfaced, and was sentenced to life in prison.
Frankel said Tuesday that the Brantley investigation found that Gohagen had sexually assaulted at least a dozen other women in the area in the 1990s, destroying his credibility as the only witness in the Midkiff case, reports WXYZ. Oakland County Circuit Judge Martha Anderson overturned the convictions Tuesday, the AP reports. "I wish to apologize for the actions taken by your fellow citizens against you," she said. "Twenty-five years of your life has been taken from you that cannot be replaced." The brothers celebrated with family members including Melvin's daughter after the decision. Melvin said he wanted to thank his mother in particular for never letting the brothers lose hope. (Read more Michigan stories.)