Jeffrey Deskovic received $5.4 million in compensation from the city of Peekskill, New York, on Tuesday, September 5, 2013, for his wrongful conviction and incarceration for the murder and rape of a teenage classmate in 1989.
In January 1991, Deskovic was convicted by a jury of first degree rape and second degree murder in the death of his classmate, 15-year-old Angela Correa, and was sentenced to fifteen years to life in prison for his crimes. Angela had disappeared on November 15, 1989, after going for a walk after school to take pictures for a photography class. Angela never returned home. After two days of searching, Angela’s naked body was found by police dogs. The young woman had been raped, beaten and strangled.
What’s tragic and outrageous about this case is that DNA testing was conducted before the trial and the results showed that Deskovic was not the source of the semen in the rape kit. This evidence alone should have cleared the young man as a suspect; however, the prosecution was determined to continue their case against Deskovic based on his alleged confession.
Why did Deskovic confess to such a heinous crime when he was innocent? He confessed to the rape and murder of Angela for the following reasons:
- Intense interrogation by investigators for six hours without a parent or attorney present in the room
- Threats of bodily harm by investigators
- Daniel Stephens, the investigator who conducted the polygraph test, convinced Deskovic he had failed the test
- Promises by officers that if he confessed, his only punishment would be treatment in a mental hospital
In 2006, Jeffrey Deskovic was freed and exonerated after serving nearly sixteen years in prison when new DNA testing arranged by the Innocence Project identified the actual killer of Angela Correa. The DNA results matched that of Steven Cunningham, a convicted murder serving a life sentence for killing his girlfriend’s sister, and who, when confronted with the DNA test results, confessed to the murder and rape of Angela Correa.
Deskovic has now received a total of $11.9 million in compensation for his years in prison. Westchester County settled two years ago for $6.5 million, and the state of New York settled for $1.8 million.
He has used $1.5 million of his compensation funds to establish the Jeffrey Deskovic Foundation for Justice, a non-profit organization striving to exonerate the innocent and raise public awareness about wrongful convictions.