Two cases which I have written about on this blog can now be officially categorized as exonerations -- the case of Jeffrey Deskovic from Peekskill, New York and the case of JA, who was a 12 year old from Carrolton, Ga. when police claimed he confessed to the murder of 8 year old Amy Yates. Both involved juveniles who falsely confessed to murders. Deskovic's exoneration was a "formality" after DNA evidence not only cleared him of murder but identified the true perpetrator. Formality or not, Deskovic did get the satisfaction of an apology of sorts from the judge who vacated his conviction ("There is no relief for your immeasurable loss that I may offer you" said Supreme Court Justice Richard Molea in granting the State's motion to dismiss his indictment). He spent 16 years in prison for a crime he did not commit and surely will be seeking relief in the civil courts to recover some compensation for his nightmare.
The second exoneration for J.A. was anything but a formality. A grand jury on Friday 11/3, after nearly a week of hearing evidence, indicted Chris Gosset for involuntary manslaughter in the killing of 8 year old Amy Yates. This new indictment means the end to J.A.'s nightmare. J.A. spent nearly two years in a juvenile facility after he pled guilty (an Alford plea) to murdering Amy Yates. J.A. claimed that police coerced him into giving a false confession but once the court ruled the confession would be admitted (J.A. took the plea which ensured he'd receive treatment as opposed to punishment). The grand jury heard from dozens of witnesses, including J.A. (he was granted immunity), and came to the conclusion that Gossett, who is mentally disabled, killed Yates but did not mean to kill her.
Although J.A. can close this chapter on his life, the case remains mired in controversy. Gossett's attorney is likely to seek a competency hearing and is already preparing a false confession defense and a blame J.A. defense if the case goes to trial. Because the grand jury chose not to indict for murder, Gossett will be tried as a juvenile and if convicted, can serve at most a couple of years for killing Yates. This news sent Yates father over the edge -- he screamed profanities and fought with a police officer, actions which led to his arrest. Expect a one hour television special on the case sometime in the near future.