Criminal justice advocate and exoneree Jeffrey Deskovic spoke at St. Thomas last week
In 1989, in Peekskill, New York, 16-year-old Jeffrey Deskovic was walking to school when he was stopped by a police car. He was wanted for questioning in the case of his raped and murdered classmate, 15-year-old Angela Correa. While his other classmates were in school mourning the girl’s loss, Deskovic sat in a small room for seven and a half hours. He had no food, no access to relatives and no attorney present. The police attached him to a polygraph machine with one goal in mind—to get Deskovic to confess to the murder by the end of the interrogation, regardless of his innocence. After feeding him copious amounts of caffeine to raise his pulse, playing good cop bad cop and using every scare tactic in the book, Deskovic was in a fetal position on the floor. If he confessed, they told him, he’d be set free and get to go home to his mother and grandmother.
“Being young, naïve, frightened, 16-years-old, not thinking about the long term implications, I took up their offer,” Deskovic told an overflowing auditorium at St. Thomas University last Tuesday night.
It wasn’t until 2006, after serving 16 years in prison, Deskovic was finally set free.
Since his release, he has been an integral part of successfully resisting the restoration of capital punishment in New York, delivered over 100 speeches across the United States and obtained his master’s degree in criminology.
Most recently, he founded the Jeffrey Deskovic Foundation for Justice, which seeks legislative changes to prevent wrongful convictions, works to exonerate the wrongfully convicted and helps exonerees in their reintegration into society.
“What is it that can be learned about the causes of wrongful conviction and the reforms?” Deskovic asked the audience full of criminology students. “What is it that my case illustrates?”