In 2006, Jeffrey Deskovic was released from prison, where he had been wrongfully imprisoned for the past 16 years.
He had been arrested in 1989 as a 16-year-old, after a classmate had been raped and murdered. Police had picked him up for questioning, and over the course of 7 and a half hours, forced a false confession out of him by means of terror. He was kept in a cramped room with no food or attorney, attached to a polygraph test and fed large amounts of coffee, and told that it would all be over if he just confessed.
Deskovic says that he was young and frightened, and wasn’t fully aware of the ramifications of a confession, so he took the offer, and was sent to prison.
Since his release, he has been involved in many public projects, mostly focused around helping the wrongfully-imprisoned. He played a very important part in resisting the recent push in New York to reinstate the death penalty, he has given more than 100 speeches across the country, and he has earned a master’s degree in criminology
When he was convicted back in 1989, he was sentenced to 15 years to life in prison. He filed 7 appeals, all of which were denied, he was continually denied parole, and he couldn’t get anyone to listen to his side of the story at all. Until 2005, when the Innocence Project was brought to his attention. They were able to re-examine the DNA evidence surrounding the case (which has come a long way since 1989). Their work proved that Deskovic was innocent of all charges.
Since his release, Deskovic has been very active in helping the wrongfully accused be acquitted of charges. While the justice system has come a long way since the late 80’s, Deskovic says that wrongful imprisonment is still very much possible, and through his efforts, he hopes not only to reduce future wrongful imprisonment, but also provide an outlet for those who are currently looking for help.
The next step, according to Deskovic, is setting up punishments for prosecutors who intentionally withhold important evidence.
In speaking of the importance of honesty and integrity in the justice system, Deskovic said “I had never been convicted for so much as a violation, none of my friends were involved in any crime, and I was not a high school dropout. It happened to me and it can happen to you.”