THE NY TIMES REPORTS:
DNA Evidence Frees Man After 15 Years in Prison
WHITE PLAINS, Sept. 20 — In 1990, a jury convicted Jeffrey Mark Deskovic, then 16, of raping, beating and strangling a high school classmate, even though jurors were told the DNA evidence in the case did not point to him.
They believed a police detective, who testified that Mr. Deskovic had confessed to the crime. A judge sentenced him to 15 years to life in prison, and at age 17 Mr. Deskovic was locked up.
Today, another judge set the 33-year-old Mr. Deskovic free, saying he agreed with his lawyers and the Westchester district attorney that more sophisticated DNA testing showed that someone else had killed and raped Angela Correa in November 1989.
When he heard that he was being set free, Mr. Deskovic, who has been arguing his innocence for years, sat speechless for a few minutes. Then he hugged his lawers and walked out of the courtroom.
Afterward, he talked to reporters and others about his overwhelming sense of relief, mixed with anger, over what he has lost by spending almost half his life behind bars for a crime he did not commit.
“I was supposed to finish out my education, begin a career,” he said. “Marry, have a family, spend some time with my family, share the last years of my grandmother’s life with her.”
He said his plans to marry his girlfriend were thwarted when he went to prison. His family grew apart.
“My family has become strangers to me,” Mr. Deskovic said.
Court records show that the police became suspicious of Mr. Deskovic when he showed unusual interest in the case, telling the police he was investigating the case himself, and visiting the crime scene.
A police detective said Mr. Deskovic had confessed.
But Mr. Deskovic had pleaded not guilty from the beginning of the case, and DNA evidence from the crime scene indicated he was not involved in the murder of his Peekskill High School classmate, who was 15. Ms. Correa’s body was found in a woods near an elementary school.
Even after he was imprisoned, Mr. Deskovic insisted he had not killed Ms. Correa, taking his case to the Supreme Court, which refused to hear the matter.
Finally, with the aid of the Innocence Project, a non-profit legal clinic at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law in New York, the Westchester district attorney considered results of more sophisticated DNA evidence that pointed to someone else.
Prosecutors ran the results of the testing through a national databank, which turned up a match to another inmate already serving a life sentence for another Westchester murder.
Once again Rumpole notes that if the more serious murder cases are supposedly defended by the better defense attorneys, then who is working on the cases of innocent individuals in prison who were represented by "not the best attorneys" on cases involving questionable confessions or tainted eyewitness identifications for crimes like burglary or robbery?
Just a sobering, depressing, nightmarish thought.
How many times does this have to happen before we get it through our thick heads that the criminal justice system is broken and needs to be fixed?
We are so entranced with the American ideals of cross examination, the right to remain silent, the burden of proof, and a trial by jury, that we cannot see the forest through the trees.
Those ideals while worthy and deserving of praise, do not make up for the fact that thousands of innocent people (if not more) are in prison serving sentences.
There are over a million people incarcerated in our country. a five percent error rate means that more than 50,000 innocent people are in prison.
See You In Court, trying our best to prevent an injustice from occurring.