Age at the date of crime: 21
County of Conviction: Cascade County
Convicted of: Child Abuse
Sentence: 5 years
Years Served: 3
Released: March 30, 2017
Cost of Wrongful Incarceration: $108,000 (in 2015 dollars)
On September 18, 2012, Jasmine Eskew’s six-month-old daughter, Brooklynn, stopped breathing. Ms. Eskew called 911. At the hospital, doctors at first believed that Brooklynn had been shaken and notified law enforcement, which took Ms. Eskew to the police station.
At the police station, officers told her that she would not be able to see her baby until she confessed to shaking her baby, something she didn’t do. They told her that they needed to get information that would help her daughter, and by not providing this information she was “hurting” her daughter. The officers gave her a doll and insisted that she demonstrate how she shook her baby. Ms. Eskew continued to deny that she had ever shook her baby.
After hours of this interrogation, Ms. Eskew did what the officers asked and falsely confessed to shaking her baby. And, when Ms. Eskew tried to demonstrate on the doll how she shook her baby, the officers insisted that she shake the doll differently, which she did.
After her false confession, she was arrested. Despite finding that the officers had lied to Ms. Eskew during the interrogation and that the true purpose of the lie was to coerce her into admitting to acts that fit the officers predetermined theory, Cascade County District Judge Dirk Sandefur denied her attorney’s request to exclude her false confession.
On appeal, the Montana Innocence Project submitted an amicus brief in support of Ms. Eskew. It argued that she did not get a fair trial because Judge Sandefur denied her request to present an expert on false confessions. The expert would have testified that her confession should have been barred because it was involuntary. The Montana Supreme Court agreed and reversed Ms. Eskew’s conviction. The Court adopted the language of MTIP’s argument, stating, “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 Supreme Court overturned the conviction and remanded the case back to the District Court.
On March 30, 2017, the prosecution dismissed the charge.