Exoneree Pursues Law Degree to Fill Criminal Justice 'Gaps'

New York Law Journal

By Andrew Denney

Jeffrey Deskovic, who served 16 years in prison for a murder he did not commit, has done everything he can in the years since his release to fight for the freedom of the wrongfully accused. Now he's working to become what he considers the ultimate advocate—a lawyer—by going to law school to obtain a J.D.

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Jeff Deskovic on His Way to Becoming a Lawyer: “I Want to Help Exonerate People Myself”

Innocence Project

Last week the Innocence Blog  interviewed exoneree Jeff Deskovic, who recently completed his first week at Pace University Law School and is on his way to fulfilling a childhood dream of becoming a lawyer.

As a kid, Deskovic was inspired by his mother’s sophisticated personal injury attorney who seemed to be making a difference for his clients. Unfortunately, his legal ambitions were halted after he was wrongly convicted at age 16 for the rape and murder of a high school classmate.

Like many innocent people in prison, Deskovic had little choice but to master the details of his case and to become legally astute so that he could to help further his case along with the help of the Innocence Project. In early 2006, Innocence Project Staff Attorney Nina Morrison and Co-Founder Barry Scheck presented DNA evidence excluding Deskovic and identifying another male as the source of a semen sample taken from the victim, which led to his exoneration later that year.

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Jeffrey Deskovic Makes Us Proud

The Journal News

A Journal News editorial

The next chapter in an amazing journey from victim of injustice to fighter for justice

Pace University’s Elisabeth Haub School of Law in White Plains started classes Monday. Among its first-year law students: Jeffrey Deskovic, who was locked away at age 17 for a heinous crime that he didn’t commit; who was finally set free after 16 years; who has devoted his time, energy and money to help other innocents earn exoneration.

It has been an amazing journey for Deskovic, who was convicted in the 1989 rape and murder of a Peekskill High School classmate, and then exonerated in 2006 with the help of DNA evidence. His case was a study not only in coercion, but also cold-blooded neglect.

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Deskovic Wins Wrongful Conviction Verdict

New York Law Journal

by Mark Hamblett

Jeffrey Deskovic Thursday won a $41.65 million verdict against Putnam County for his wrongful conviction for the rape and murder of a high school classmate that cost him 16 years behind bars. 

Nick Brustin and Emma Freudenberger, partners with Neufeld Scheck & Brustin, said it took a federal jury about an hour and a half to reach a verdict, awarding Deskovic $25 million for time in prison, $15 million for pain and suffering and $1.65 million in lost wages. Deskovic's recovery, however, was limited to $10 million by a complicated side agreement between the parties. 

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Exonerated Man Now Helps Others

Wall Street Journal

By Sean Gardiner

Before he was exonerated in the rape and murder of a Westchester high-school classmate, Jeffrey Deskovic spent 16 years in prison insisting upon his innocence. Now, with millions of dollars in legal settlement money, he said he plans to aid others who believe they have been unjustly convicted. 

He is set to announce this week the Jeffrey Deskovic Foundation for Justice, a nonprofit he established to work on cases in the New York City area. 

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Trial and Error: Houston, We’ve Got a Problem

The Huffington Post

By Lynne Glasner

From Exoneration to Activism: Jeffrey Deskovic Speaks Out

Jeffrey Deskovic spent 16 years in prison based on faulty evidence against him. With a new district attorney in place, The Innocence Project picked up his case in 2005 and was able to obtain DNA from the original crime scene; the prior DA had refused requests to run the tests. The evidence not only proved Deskovic’s innocence, it also located the real perpetrator. Lynne Glasner spoke to Deskovic about his activism and why he’s chosen to support Aborn for Manhattan DA.

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The Three Lives of Jeffrey Deskovic

Daily Kos


We sat on a bench facing what passes for a quadrangle on this miniature campus.  Me, the pampered law student with a wife, a dog, a moderately priced home in the suburbs.  Him, quiet but direct, reserved but optimistic.  His beard was gone, and he sat in a suit that fit him rather well, which I presumed he had purchased for the day's events.

It was the part of the day when the chill turned to cold, but I felt guilty about the idea of putting on a jacket: would it look like I was eager to leave?  Jeff asked how old the people playing soccer on the quad were.  I knew a few of them and pointed them out, identifying their ages, most between 23-29 years old.  Jeff looked covetous.  "I miss that," he told me as we watched my classmates on the grass.  "That's the life I wish I had.  I don't have a life.  That's the most difficult thing."  He pauses for a moment as the goalie at the far end of the field makes an easy stop and passes the ball off to Brett, a friend of mine.  "I'm looking to live my twenties.  If I do, at some point I may start to feel my age."  

His twenties were some of the 16 years Jeffrey Deskovic lost in Elmira Correctional Facility serving a life sentence for an unspeakable crime that he did not commit.

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Innocent Man's Plea Nixed by DA Pirro

New York Post

By Kenneth Lovett

ALBANY- Jeanine Pirro ignored a request to retest the DNA of a convicted murderer who has since been found innocent and released, unearthed federal legal documents show Jeffrey Deskovic was freed last month after nearly 16 years in prison when Pirro’s successor as Westchester district attorney had the DNA retested.

Federal court papers obtained last week by the Innocence Project show Deskovic’s lawyer in 2000 – when Pirro was still DA – made a similar request to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals. Those papers were served on Pirro’s office, but no retesting took place after the federal court rejected the motion. Deskovic charged that Pirro had ignored a letter he’d sent begging she reopen the case.

Pirro has argued the needed DNA technology didn’t exist at the time. However, the new technology was available in 2000 when the court request was made, says the Innocence Project. Pirro spokesman John Gallagher said the papers, which surfaced as Pirro prepares today to debate Democratic opponent Andrew Cuomo, make it clear “that no evidence existed” when Pirro was still DA. Gallagher insisted that when asked to take another look at cases directly by the Innocence Project, Pirro always complied.

Said Cuomo spokeswoman Wendy Katz: “We now know that an innocent young man was a tragic victim of Mrs. Pirro’s prosecutorial error.”

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DNA Evidence Frees a Man Imprisoned for Half His Life

The New York Times


WHITE PLAINS, Sept. 20 —Jeffrey Mark Deskovic came of age in a maximum-security prison, doing time for a crime he did not commit.

Sixteen years ago, Mr. Deskovic was convicted of raping, beating and strangling a Peekskill High School classmate in a jealous fit of rage. DNA evidence presented at his trial showed that semen in the victim’s body was not his, but the police testified that he had confessed.

On Wednesday, after he fought exhaustive legal battles and wrote dozens of pleading letters that led him nowhere, Mr. Deskovic, 32, walked out of the Westchester County Courthouse an overjoyed if embittered man.

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