Exonerated brothers reunited in Lansing after decades in prison

Their convictions were overturned in part because of AG Nessel’s Conviction Integrity Unit
Exonerated brothers reunite in Lansing after 25 years in prison
Published: Mar. 22, 2022 at 10:53 AM EDT|Updated: Mar. 22, 2022 at 1:06 PM EDT
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LANSING, Mich. (WILX) - They were in prison for decades for a crime they did not commit.

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel met with two men Tuesday morning who were exonerated after months of work by the AG’s Conviction Integrity Unity (CIU).

Earlier in the day, brothers George DeJesus and Melvin DeJesus had their convictions vacated thanks to the collaboration between the Oakland County Prosecutor’s Office, the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office, the Cooley Law School Innocence Project, the University of Michigan Innocence Clinic, and the CIU.

In 1997, the two were sentenced to life without parole for murder. Evidence that has come to light since that conviction which has exonerated both brothers of the crime.

Case Background

On July 11, 1995, police in Pontiac found a woman’s body in the basement of her home. She was found with a pillowcase over her head and wires binding her neck, wrists, and ankles.

Through DNA, police linked Brandon Gohagen to the crime scene. Gohagen eventually confessed to sexually assaulting the victim but also claimed Melvin DeJesus had forced him to assault her, and then both Melvin and George DeJesus beat her to death. Gohagen took a deal and pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and first-degree criminal sexual conduct in exchange for testifying against the two brothers.

Both George and Melvin presented alibis at trial, stating they were at a party on the night Gohagen said the crime took place, along with Gohagen. Their alibi claimed the three went their separate ways after the party.

But, during the trial, both alibi witnesses were scrutinized for being inconsistent as to whether the party was on a Friday night or the Saturday night Gohagen claimed the crime occurred.

Truth Comes Out

“In 2017, Gohagen was convicted of the 1994 sexual assault and murder of another woman in Oakland County. Gohagen acted alone in that crime,” the Department of the Attorney General said. “In addition to the 1995 and the 1994 cases, the CIU discovered 12 other women who were emotionally, physically, and sexually abused by Gohagen. The CIU also found other evidence that impeached Gohagen’s credibility, and the CIU spoke to a witness who said that Gohagen confessed to implicating the brothers in exchange for a deal.”

After speaking with numerous witnesses and reviewing decades’ worth of documents, the CIU found witness statements made within weeks of the 1995 crime that corroborated the brothers’ alibis the night of the murder.

According to the Michigan Department of Corrections website, Gohagen is serving four sentences in the Muskegon Correctional Facility, including:

  • Criminal Sexual Conduct, 1st degree (personal injury)
    • 20-60 years
  • Homicide - Felony Murder
    • Life
  • Homicide - Murder, Second Degree
    • 35-80 years
  • Criminal Sexual Conduct, 1st degree (personal injury)
    • 35-80 years

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