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Jasmine Eskew

Other Women Exonerees Who Falsely Confessed
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On September 18, 2012, 21-year-old Jasmine Eskew called 911 in Great Falls, Montana to report that her six-month-old daughter, Brooklynn, was not breathing. As paramedics arrived, they saw Eskew’s boyfriend of a few weeks, Greg Robey, leaving the residence.

At the hospital, doctors did not see any outward signs of injury and suspected that the child was a victim of Shaken Baby Syndrome. Police were notified and Eskew was taken to the police station.

There, Eskew sobbed and demanded to see the baby. She waived her Miranda rights and, after about an hour, managed to calm down. Two officers told her that Brooklynn was being cared for and that as soon as they finished talking to her, she could go see her.

They said they needed an accurate description of what happened so they could tell the doctors, and that Brooklynn could not be treated properly until she answered their questions. The sooner she provided the information, the officers said, the sooner they could get her back to her daughter.

“We’ll get this over with and get you back up to your daughter, okay?” one of the officers said. They repeatedly told her she was the “only one” who could help Brooklynn and that by not giving them the responses they expected, she was “hurting” Brooklynn.

The interrogation lasted four hours and was videotaped. Although the officers did not yell, their voices increasingly were raised. She often responded to repeated questions with only a few words, and many of her responses were inaudible.

She said she found her daughter in distress and had tried to console her by rocking her. Eskew denied the officers’ allegations that she shook Brooklyn, stating that she “didn’t shake her or anything.”

The officers told Eskew that they already knew what had happened and demanded that she admit that her description of “rocking” Brooklyn to console her was actually “shaking.” When Eskew repeatedly denied shaking Brooklyn, the officers gave her a doll to demonstrate how she rocked her daughter.

She did so, but the officers insisted that she do it differently and demanded that she “make the doll’s head rock!” Ultimately, after four hours, Eskew relented. She shook the doll and told the officers that she had shaken her daughter.

She was then arrested and never saw her daughter alive again. By then, Brooklynn had been transferred to a hospital in Spokane, Washington, where a CT scan showed a skull fracture in the shape of a circular hole. When Brooklynn died two days later, the cause of death was blunt force trauma, not Shaken Baby Syndrome.

Eskew was charged with deliberate homicide and felony assault on a minor. Prior to trial, her lawyers argued that the prosecution should be barred from presenting the confession at trial because it was coerced.

Following a hearing in December 2013, Cascade County District Judge Dirk Sandefur denied the motion to suppress the confession, despite determining that the officers deliberately lied to Eskew. They lied, the judge found, when they told her that the interview was necessary to get information to treat Brooklyn, when they said her responses to their questions could determine whether her daughter received the proper medical treatment, and when they said she would be reunited with her daughter as soon as the interrogation was over.

Judge Sandefur not only concluded that the real purpose of the interview was to get admissions from Eskew that fit the officers’ pre-determination that she had caused her daughter’s injury by shaking her, but also found that Eskew did not understand that the officers were questioning her in order to charge her with a serious crime.

Eskew went to trial in Cascade County District Court in March 2014. The prosecution presented autopsy evidence showing that Brooklynn died of a fractured skull that resulted in a subdural hematoma, and relied upon her confession to assert that she had struck Brooklynn.

The defense argued that Brooklynn had been struck by Eskew’s boyfriend, Greg Robey. Robey had been taking care of the child in the hours before Eskew discovered the baby not breathing. The circular hole in Brooklynn’s skull mirrored the ring on Robey’s hand, the defense contended. Robey was a methamphetamine user who had engaged in abusive conduct in the past. Prior to the trial, Eskew had given birth to twins that she asserted were the result of Robey raping her on the day Brooklynn was injured. Robey claimed the sex was consensual and denied harming Brooklynn.

The defense moved to present an expert on false confessions, but Judge Sandefur denied it.

On April 1, 2014, the jury acquitted Eskew of deliberate homicide, but convicted her of felony assault of a child. Judge Sandefur sentenced her to five years in prison.

On appeal, the Montana Appellate Defender argued that Eskew’s trial was unfair because she was not allowed to present an expert on false confessions to testify that her confession was involuntary and should have been barred. The Montana Innocence Project and the Innocence Project based in New York filed an amicus brief in support of that argument.

In February 2017, the Montana Supreme Court reversed Eskew’s conviction and ordered a new trial, but without Eskew’s confession.

“Based upon our review of the record, we are firmly convinced a mistake has been made,” the court said. “Confessions or admissions like the ones in this case, induced by deliberate psychological coercion, lies, and material misrepresentations to the suspect are not voluntary and should be excluded from evidence,” the court held.

On March 14, 2017, Eskew was released from prison on bond. On March 30, 2017, the prosecution dismissed the charge.

– Maurice Possley

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Posting Date: 1/25/2018
State:Montana
County:Cascade
Most Serious Crime:Child Abuse
Additional Convictions:
Reported Crime Date:2012
Convicted:2014
Exonerated:2017
Sentence:5 years
Race:Caucasian
Sex:Female
Age at the date of crime:21
Contributing Factors:False Confession, Official Misconduct
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No