This Wrongfully Incarcerated Resident Is Now Helping Others Find Freedom
Jeffrey Deskovic has graduated from the Elizabeth Haub School at Pace University with a law degree and has made it his mission to help others like him.
photo courtesy of Jeffrey Deskovic
The ’90s were an exciting time to be a teenager. Kids spent afternoons at each other’s homes, playing video games and learning how to navigate this new thing called the Internet. However, this wasn’t the case for 16-year-old Jeffrey Deskovic. In 1990, the shy Peekskill High School student was convicted of raping and murdering 15-year-old classmate Angela Correa. Deskovic was sentenced to 15 years to life. For the next 16 years, he fought to prove his innocence and was finally released in 2006, after DNA from the case matched that of another inmate.
Now, 12 years later, Deskovic has graduated from the Elizabeth Haub School at Pace University with a law degree and has made it his mission to help others like him. “When are we going to get better at preventing wrongful imprisonment? I’m interested in exonerating other people who were wrongfully imprisoned, so I intend to represent some of the clients in my foundation, and I want to help them be compensated afterward,” says Deskovic, who adds that the average duration of wrongful imprisonment is 14 years.
In 1998, the National DNA bank was created to assist in solving cases using sophisticated technology that would match DNA evidence left at crime scenes. Although this new tech was in place while Deskovic was incarcerated, he says then-Westchester County DA Jeanine Pirro refused to review his case. “She blocked me from getting tested several times, but had she agreed, I could have saved eight years basically,” explains Deskovic, who now resides in the Bronx. “It bothers me greatly that she’s never apologized. She’s never said that she regrets that decision.”
In 2014, a federal jury awarded Mr. Deskovic $40 million (of which the county will have to pay only $10 million, because of a pretrial damage-limitation agreement), some of which he used to establish The Jeffrey Deskovic Foundation for Justice. The nonprofit has already helped exonerate seven people, and he is hoping to help more.
To date, there have been 365 DNA exonerees in the U.S. Deskovic, who sat for the New York State Bar exam in July, says, “This could happen to anybody, but don’t give up no matter what. I wouldn’t be where I am if I gave up.”